Google’s Chrome browser could be set to continue its expansion into the mobile space with suggestions that an iOS version is being prepped for iPhone, iPad and the iPod touch.
According to analyst group Macquarie (USA) Equities Research Chrome could launch on iOS as soon as June or not long after. Although iOS apps need to go through the approval process, Apple now allows third-party web browsers.
As the GigaOM website points out, that wasn’t the case in the early days of iOS, but a key drawback is that third-party browsers still cannot be set as the default web app.
Chrome’s slick, clutter-free mobile app for Android (designed for OS 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich”) has been warmly received. While iOS users now have a range of alternative browsers to choose from, including Dolphin, Opera, Atomic and recent arrivals such as Cocoon, the platform lacks a big hitter rival to Safari. That’s a gap that Chrome might be able to fill.
Macquarie speculates that it could spark off a replay of the late 1990s “browser wars” of Explorer versus Netscape. How many people will be happy with an awkward dual browser system is doubtful, though. If you start a web browsing session on an iOS device you can choose any of your installed apps to do so.
However, as Kevin C. Tofel of GigaOM explains, “All links in emails, texts or other apps will always open in Safari, regardless of what other browsers are installed. That’s a big usability barrier that gives Safari a competitive advantage on iOS, no matter how great Chrome is. Ironically, Google (as well as Mozilla) are grumbling about Microsoft giving its own Internet Explorer an advantage on Windows 8 as well.”
Its success could hinge on how well it integrates with different Google services, including syncing bookmarks, history and open tabs on any other devices where you use Chrome, and connecting with the new Google Drive cloud storage platform.
“Chrome for iOS may indeed appear,” Tofel concludes, “but Google isn’t likely to gain much. Instead, users are best poised to get a benefit as some of the better features in Chrome could find their way in future versions of mobile Safari.”