Earlier today, Google announced Chrome for iOS (iPhone and iPad), and thanks to Richard Gaywood finding a direct link to the App Store, I got the chance to play around with it in-between a busy schedule of sessions and meetings at I/O 2012. Chrome on iOS weighs in at 12.8 MB and is version 19.0.1084.60. 


Earlier I had a glimmer of hope that Apple had relaxed the App Store rules to allow Chrome as a real native application on iOS, complete with its V8 JavaScript engine and newer version of WebKit (535.19). Unfortunately, as suspected, Chrome on iOS uses iOS' UIWebView, which means the same rendering engine as mobilesafari. On my iPhone 4S running iOS 6 B2, you can see the same user agent string (with the Chrome OS version tacked in between some other things) shared between mobilesafari and Chrome.

iOS MobileSafari
Location WebKit Version HTML5test.com Score CSS3test.com Score Sunspider 0.9.1
iOS 5.1.1 534.46 324 + 9 52% 2226.1
iOS 6.0 B1 534.46 360 + 9 57% 1842.9
Chrome for iOS (on iOS6 B2) 534.46 360 + 9 57% 6839.4

In addition, like other apps leveraging UIWebView, there's no access to mobilesafari's Nitro JavaScript engine which has JIT and other optimizations that make it run much faster. That means JavaScript execution is significantly slower inside Chrome on iOS than it is in mobilesafari.

On the positive side, the Chrome interface is pretty much exactly how it appears on Android, including the nice tabbed card switcher complete with the ability to close and switch tabs by swiping off the edge of the screen. Scrolling around inside webpages is also nice and speedy on Chrome for iOS, which isn't a  surprise since, again, it's using UIWebView. The real feature in Chrome for iOS sadly isn't a superior browsing engine, but rather the ability to sync your tabs, pages, and back history across the desktop and more mobile platforms. 

Update: As NobleKain points out in the comments, there's a discrepancy between WebKit versions between iOS 6 B1 and B2. B2 is now running 536.13, but WebView remains 534.46. Either way for users running iOS 5.1.1, these should be the same, I just unfortunately only have a device on me running the beta, hence the discrepancy.

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  • aliasfox - Friday, June 29, 2012 - link

    There was a mention somewhere a few weeks ago that T-Mobile was starting to switch 3G bands to better accomodate iPhones in the future - they want in on the next round of updates. One of the first locations is supposedly right around Moscone Center - this was discovered more or less at WWDC, and it's the same place that I/O is happening at.
  • michal1980 - Friday, June 29, 2012 - link

    M$ couldn't pull of this type of monopolistic behavoir ever. Why is Apple able to get away with everything?
  • EJ257 - Friday, June 29, 2012 - link

    Because Apple doesn't enjoy a 99.9999% market share in smart phones. Apple is doing this to protect the their image and integrity of their product. Can it been seen as anti-competitive? Sure. Is it monopolistic? Not even close.
  • GotThumbs - Friday, June 29, 2012 - link

    I agree 100%, but Apple is still in the fan stage and in the general public's eye...Can do not wrong. As general consumers gain greater technical knowledge and learn about the other choices in the market...they will begin to realize the trap they've fallen into. Proprietary he_l.

    I do have an issue with the speed in which Apple is injecting itself into public school systems. Selling 15 million worth of Ipads to a California school system. What idiot thinks all these children will care for the hardware? I'll be interested to see how many units are broken after the first month and by the end of the first school year. Then try and see how they will pay for the repair/replacement costs. Do the parents have to sign a responsibly agreement? I'll guarantee they won't all sign if that's the case.

    Just a bad idea and some salesmen just rose up the Apple ranks.
  • gcor - Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - link

    I think you may be missing the point. General consumers don't want more technical knowledge. Unlike readers of this web site, general consumers prefer appliances over tinker tools. Provided said appliances let them achieve their goals, they prefer a minimum of hassle understanding and configuring the appliances. I think that's why general consumers like Apple products, and that's what Apple is trying to provide. It doesn't appeal to us tech types and offends our sense of what everyone should want.
  • Ammaross - Friday, June 29, 2012 - link

    Apple created the hardware (and thus the ecosystem). When was the last time you tried sideloading your own special OS/app on a Sony Vita or add an App to your featurephone? Should we sue featurephone makers for not allowing you to develop and load an MP3 player app for use with a featurephone? Just because a device maker opens their device enough to allow third-party apps doesn't mean they are required to be fair about it. Windows, however, did not make the PC hardware that the OS ran on, they simply forced OEMs to sell ONLY their OS on ALL of their kits going out or they would not be able to put Windows on anything. Once they became the de-facto PC OS and had the market entirely dependent upon them, then they were restricted in what they did with that position. If Apple forbade carriers from selling Android/Win7 phones if they were to sell the iPhone, and somehow became the 95% marketshare leader that MS was, then you might have an argument about monopolistic practices. But Apple's business practices don't do well as a market share leader, as they were never aiming to be such. They're a company like Rolex: they sell overly-expensive items with an air of higher-quality, even if only marginally so (or not, depending on taste).
  • Wolfpup - Friday, June 29, 2012 - link

    I don't buy that argument. Seems like exactly the same situation to me, and Microsoft gets jumped on for...you know, like icons being too prominent or something, while Apple gets praised for flat out blocking competition.

    Their situation with like Barnes & Noble and Amazon not being able to sell books directly through t heir programs on iOS (and only iOS) is ludicrous too.
  • solipsism - Saturday, June 30, 2012 - link

    Read up on the damn case before you post: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Micr...
  • Striderevil - Sunday, July 1, 2012 - link

    Isn't it exactly what Apple is trying to do here as well, create a monopoly or sue everyone regardless of whether hardware is not the same, screen and OS is different. Circumventing vendors to sell only to its stores or devices. It would have been extremely successful had it priced its hardware right and kept it an open environment with micro sd and USB connectivity. Basically unlike MSFT its keeping its customers unhappy. Its forcing its own demise through its stupidity. Adding insult to injury, comes up with hardly the latest new or innovative hardware and charges twice the amount for it while dropping support for its devices which are just over 2 years old and which still cannot be unlocked until its 5 years old.
  • NobleKain - Friday, June 29, 2012 - link

    I agree with Wolfpup. Ammaross, you analogies are extremely poor.

    It's more like someone making an OS and a Web Browser, and then packaging them together, and selecting their browser as the default...

    ... hmm, wait. Doesn't this sounds familiar?... iOS was made and Safari was the default browser...

    Hmm, but that's still not right.....

    OH YES! That's right... Microsoft just got sued by the EU and forced to remove IE as the default browser of Windows. There we go.

    One KEY difference. Microsoft didn't arbitrarily impede performance of competing browsers. Apple, is.

    Perhaps someone should call the EU?....

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