A weekend with Chrome for iOS
We took Chrome for iOS for a spin this weekend, tucking Safari into a folder and using Chrome exclusively on the iPhone and iPad. By Monday morning, Safari was back in the dock.
Chrome for iOS is impressive. Despite reports to the contrary, it often felt faster than Safari. Its interface brings many elements from the desktop and Android versions of Chrome, such as bookmark syncing, tab syncing and dictation. Edge swiping to switch between tabs works great and hopefully will make its way into other iOS apps in the future. Switching between tabs on the iPad is even better, as you can switch between multiple tabs with a single swipe. Opening a new tab instantly refreshes the tab, showing you the old version of the page in black and white until the new one is available. Sounds pretty great. So, why switch back to Safari? Here’s why:
We rely heavily on bookmarks for visiting sites in iOS. They sync via iCloud from desktop Safari and provide quick access to our favorite sites. In Safari, bookmarks are one tap away. In Chrome for iOS, it takes two. It might seem minor, but it was annoying because of the frequency with which we access bookmarks. Further, in our opinion, the bookmarks menu in Safari is easier to navigate than the grid used by Chrome for iOS.
We only use one bookmarklet: Instapaper. But, we use it a lot. In Safari, you just open up bookmarks, tap ‘Read Later’ and you’re done. Surprisingly, this doesn’t work in Chrome for iOS. Selecting the Instapaper bookmarklet results in the following error:
As mentioned by John Gruber on Twitter, you actually can use bookmarklets in Chrome for iOS, but you need to type the entire name of the bookmarklet in the omnibox to launch it. Typing ‘Read Later’ many times per day gets old fast. Renaming the bookmarklet to something like ‘I’ makes it easier, but that seems like a hack rather than a solution.
The inability to set Chrome for iOS as the default browser severely cripples the experience. Links from other apps, such as Maps and Mail, open in Safari. Most people prefer to use one app for each task. For browsing, it is nice to have all of your open websites in one place. Being forced to use Safari for a significant amount of browsing diminishes the experience of using Chrome for iOS.
Refresh and forward
The iPhone version of Chrome for iOS tucks the refresh button into the ‘extras’ menu and completely takes away the forward button. As mentioned above, tabs refresh automatically, but we still found ourselves looking for the refresh button fairly often. We never thought we’d miss the forward button, but it was missed on more than one occasion. [UPDATE: Thanks to @NateTehGreat for pointing out that the forward button will appear after pressing the back button. This didn’t work for us consistently, but we have confirmed that it does work most of the time.]
Will Chrome for iOS ever be an adequate substitute for Safari? Absolutely. It arguably already is. However, until the issues above are addressed, Safari will remain our browser of choice in iOS.