Google Chrome coming to iOS today

Over at Google IO, Google has announced that the their popular web browser Chrome is heading to the App Store later on today. I am not a Chrome user myself, but this is exciting because it is the first major third party desktop browser to make the jump to iOS [1]. It is also interesting because it points to two major limitations to the App Store ecosystem [2].

The first limitation will probably gain the most attention because it is a customer facing problem. There is no way for users to set a default browser on iOS. So if a user opens a link from Mail or any other app, the link will only open in Safari. This makes it hard for any other browser to get any real traction.

The second problem is more of a developer issue, but it interests me more. The Chrome that iOS users get is not really Chrome. On Android, Mac, and Windows; Chrome uses a custom forked version of Webkit and a custom Javascript engine. These will not be allowed on the iOS versions because Apple does not allow apps that can run other outside code. So the Chrome that iOS users get is a custom wrapper on top of an Apple supplied UIWebView. This means that the performance of web browsing on Chrome for iOS will be noticeably worse than in Safari, and there is noting that Google can do about it.

The first problem can only be fixed with a major change to the OS. The second is just a policy change. I hope that, with time, both of these issues will be addressed. It would go to make the App Store and iOS platform better for both consumers and developers.

  1. Sorry, Opera doesn’t count. Firefox also does not get any points for announcing without actually releasing.  ↩
  2. Neither of which look to be fixed in iOS 6.  ↩