Google is giving Android developers and other users—at least those running Android 4.0 or later on their devices—the chance to install and try out beta releases of the Google Chrome browser before they are made available as stable releases to the general public.
The new Chrome beta channel has been created for Android phone and tablet computers directly through Google Play and includes some of the biggest developer updates to Chrome for Android since its launch in February 2012, according to a Jan. 10 post by Peter Beverloo, a Chrome software engineer, on Google's Chromium Blog.
The Chrome beta channel will give developers and other users the chance to see and use many features that are in development for the Android version, wrote Beverloo. Users running Windows, Mac and Linux versions of the Chrome browser already have similar access to beta versions as well as to the stable release versions.
The first beta Android version includes support for Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) filters so that visual effects like gray scale, blur and contrast adjustment can be applied for mobile users. A new flexible box layout module simplifies the styling of complex page layouts.
Also, now available is access to the dynamic viewport units vw, vh and vmin, which can be used for responsive design, improved text auto-sizing to make desktop Web pages more readable on mobile screens, and improved speed, with 25 to 30 percent faster performance based on the Octane benchmark, wrote Beverloo.
The new beta channel also brings an updated stack of developer tools, he wrote, to give improvements in measuring mobile performance when developing for Chrome for Android.
Developers won't have to choose to ditch the release version of Chrome to try out the beta channel on their devices, according to Beverloo. Instead, the beta version can be installed alongside the user's current version of Chrome for Android. The beta version will request additional permissions when using Chrome Sync for the first time.
The first version for the new beta channel, version 25.0.1364.8, is based on the existing Chrome 25 browser, according to a Jan. 10 post by Jason Kersey of the Google Chrome team on the Chrome Releases blog. Kersey noted that to obtain the beta version, users must download it using the previously mentioned direct link in Google Play because it will not appear in a search of the Play Store.
Some of the larger known issues in the new release include sluggish performance, particularly on Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Nexus S devices, frequent freeze on devices with specific versions of Qualcomm's GPU driver and text auto-sizing problems that may break formatting on some Websites, he wrote.
Chrome celebrated its fourth birthday in September 2012 and has accomplished a lot since its startup. In June 2012, Chrome surpassed Microsoft's Internet Explorer as the world's most used browser for the first time, and it has added lots of useful features and strengths over the years to encourage even more users to adopt it.
In the latest December 2012 statistics from W3Counter.com, Chrome led Internet Explorer in global share with 29.4 percent of the market, compared with IE's 27.8 percent share. Mozilla Firefox trailed with 20.1 percent, followed by Apple Safari at 14.8 percent and Opera at 2.5 percent.
In June, when Chrome unseated Internet Explorer for Web supremacy for the first time, it was a watershed moment for the young browser. StatCounter data from more than 15 billion page views (4 billion from the United States and 850 million from the United Kingdom) for May 2012 showed Chrome took 32.43 percent of the worldwide market, compared with 32.12 percent for IE and 25.55 percent for Firefox.