Jotting down some thoughts on Chrome for iPhone.
Another Google iOS app that has an icon with a black background?!
When the top bar hides in Safari, you’re left with just the bar at thebottom. Some mobile websites have designed around this by having astrip of UI at the top. In Chrome, the bar is at the top, making things look a little cluttered on these sites (for example, cnet.com).
The swipe-from-the-edge gesture to switch tabs is intriguing. Certainly, it is a little tedious switching between tabs in Safari. (Am I the only one who mistakenly double-taps the home bottom toswitch between tabs in Safari sometimes?) The animated transition between tabs is fast and slick, though somehow the pacing of it feels just a bit off compared to animations used for transitions elsewhere in iOS (like switching between tabs in Safari and between apps). The big problem with the tab-switching gesture, I think, is that it’s just a bit too tricky and conflicts too much with otheractions you might be trying to perform, like scrolling horizontally or swiping on web pages that use that gesture to move between tabs on the page (again, see cnet.com).
The value of having history and bookmarks synced with other instances of Chrome will vary from user to user. I don’t use bookmarks much. Having browser history shared across my devices would be pretty nice.
I like that it’s much more obvious in Chrome how you search within a page. In Safari, it’s another feature of the search box (in addition to web search), and after you type your query you have to scroll through auto-complete suggestions to get to the “On This Page” button. In Chrome, it’s a plainly labeled option in the dropdown menu.
Just as in desktop Chrome, Chrome for iPhone has a very consolidated UI. Everything is in one bar, as opposed to two bars in Safari. Safari frequently hides the top bar, though, at which point both browsers’ UIs occupy about the same amount of space on the screen. The cost is that accessing the top bar (which has the URL and search boxes in Safari) requires either a tap at the top of the screen or scrolling up to the top of the page. Then an additional tap is needed to make one of the boxes active. In Chrome, you’re always one tap away from entering a URL or search query.
I’m undecided about the unified search bar. On desktop, where any opportunity to use the keyboard rather than the mouse is appreciated, I prefer the unified search bar. On a touch screen, where tapping one large UI element instead of another is pretty easy compared to text input, I’m ambivalent. One box means I can’t tap the wrong one, but two boxes lets me quickly express part of my intent (either to search or to enter a URL). There’s less space on a small screen to show URL suggestions, search query auto-complete, and matches from browser history all intermingled.
Finally, there is the non-gesture tab- switching interface. I think Chrome’s sliding cards are really neat. Being able to have more than 8 tabs sounds like a good idea, though I’ve rarely found that limitation onerous in Safari. The main benefit I see is moving through open tabs quickly.
Chrome for iPhone is interesting, but there isn’t a killer feature for me, especially since you can’t set it as the default web browser with which to open links from other apps. (Perhaps that will become an option in iOS 6.)