Download!Download Point responsive WP Theme for FREE!

Android Chrome Super Fast, Still Unusable

One weird thing about Android is that the stock browser, instead of Chrome for Android, has been widely-considered the across-the-board superior browser to Chrome for Android since Chrome’s release on Android a while ago. You’d think by now it would only be Chrome, or at least Chrome as the default browser, not something you’d have to download, at least on devices sold with a recent-enough version of Android (IE, only 4.0 and up, which is cool-cops-36-pics_4presently 43%, less than half of Android phones in use, so I suppose that’s why it’s not the default as that would be kinda awkward – though it is the default on the Nexus 7).

Before, Chrome on Android, while offering the syncing features we love about Chrome on everything else and some other goodies, like prefetching web pages it thinks you’re likely to go to as you begin to bang out a search in the omnibox so that it’s already loaded (sweet), it was buggy and slow to the point that many users reverted to the stock browser. Today, Google cool-cops-36-pics_9announced something about a new “V8” Javascript engine promising a 25% improvement on Google’s Octane Javascript benchmark. Okay, you got my attention.

ArsTechnica caught the announcement before I was able to run to my Chrome testing laboratory and they ran a series of their own tests of the new Chrome pitted against the old Chrome and the Android stock browser on three different well-known benchmarks (Sunspider and Mozilla’s Kraken in addition to Google Octane) using the Samsung GSIII running Android 4.1.1 and a Nexus 7 running Android 4.2.2 (current).

cool-cops-36-pics_12Their results basically affirm Google’s performance claim (see here if you’d like). Great. Javascript is indeed a big deal on most sites you visit whether it’s your phone or computer, you’re hitting javascript everywhere, gotta crunch those numbers fast for a smooth happy web experience, no question. This isn’t just a fluff improvement without real meaning to most Chrome for Android users, the browser is now significantly better, performance-wise.

Additionally, this Chrome update includes noticeable scrolling smoothness and pinch zooming responsiveness, some sort of CSS and HTML5 improvements, on iPhones and iPads better omnibox action. That’s great and all, but back in my own laboratory, both on Chrome and Chrome Beta for cool-cops-36-pics_33Android, still no damn text reflow! Meaning, though you can pinch and zoom to your desired zoomness, but, unlike the stock Android browser and probably most other browsers like Opera, the text will not squish and align itself properly to fit into your new window zoom level, you are stuck with either having to slide your finger left and right on every sentence or you have to manually adjust the default zoom level. This can be problematic as sites’ font size vary by site.

And when trying to fill in a comment form on a few sites I tried including our own, when you tap into the comment box to say how awesome I am compared to Ram and Murani, and how big a joke Smith is, Chrome zooms in too deep, the width of the fields don’t fit on the screen, it’s unusable still for the purposes of many. What the heck, right? Argh.

If you take a look at the recent Chrome for Android reviews, though this may change a bit after today, many of them are from frustrated users saying it’s unusable. Like these guys here, look what they’ve had to say about Chrome for Android.

I actually shopped out the positive ones for dramatic effect:


cool-cops-36-pics_15I love Google to death and the I’m fond and quite taken by the whole Chrome thing they’ve got going on over there, but in spite of these great improvements on the Android front, they left out two things I discovered in seconds, no text reflow which is lame but tolerable and it can’t handle a damn form field which is a dealbreaker. I imagine there’s more to be disappointed with but I’ve got no reason to dig beyond my two dealbreakers, so back to the stock browser for me.

Hey Google, I really want to switch from stock to Chrome. How much longer are you going to make me wait for text reflow and being able to handle basic forms either bug-free or at least on par with the stock browser?

C’mon fellas. Yes, pat on the ass for stepping your game up a good notch here with the V8 engine, I imagine that wasn’t easy, good for you, but how about focusing on the more obvious shortcomings now, the ones that probably make even a lot of you Chrome developers have to revert to the stock browser in your 20% time? Oh what, none of you do that? Don’t lie to me.

Doug Simmons