Last week Google released the Canary version of Chrome for Android to the public as an available download from the Play Store. If you’re unfamiliar with the different versions of Chrome and Chrome OS you can read all about them here.
Being the inquisitive mind that I am, I quickly installed Chrome Canary 56 on my Nexus 6P. Initially, I didn’t really see any new features that I hadn’t already read about in coming updates of the Android browser.
But, one really neat thing about Canary is that it updates almost every single day. Since this is the initial home for new and untested additions to Chrome, it is constantly in motion. I have had the experimental version installed for right at a week and have received no less that 1 update a day.
Yesterday, I noticed something new. While checking chrome://flags I spied a feature I had never seen before.
My thoughts immediately when to Google Home and the new Assistant that is being integrated into so many of Google’s fresh products. You can see from the screenshot at right, there is no description on the flag. So, I had no choice but to enable it and hope for something magical.
I am sad to report it has absolutely nothing to do with Google Home or Google’s chatty new helper. It did, however, lead me to think I had broken Chrome. If you look at the picture at top, you will see the omnibox(Chrome address bar) is at the bottom of the page, not the top. This was very intriguing, not to mention awkward.
Why on earth would I want my address bar at the bottom of the screen? It just felt unnatural.
Until I used it
After spending a few minutes browsing the web, I found the placement of the omnibox to be; comfortable. With the current average phone size just over 5 inches, reaching the top of the screen with one hand unassisted can be very troublesome. Naturally, we use both hands when convenient. But, sometimes you just want or need to use your phone single-handed.
I find myself doing this frequently when copying a link or tapping the overflow menu to share or bookmark a page. I have relatively long fingers and I still find using one hand gives me the feeling my Nexus is about to shoot out of my hand to its untimely demise.
Having and using the omnibox at the bottom of the screen became second nature within just minutes of use.
There may be a bigger use-case here I’m not seeing. But, for me I think it’s brilliant to be able to navigate the omnibox without having to strike a yoga pose with my thumb. Whether or not this will become a standard feature remains to be seen. Being that this is experimental it was still very buggy. The first attempt to use this feature left me with an omnibox at the bottom and the top of the screen. The address bar at top was completely unresponsive. After today’s update the redundant bar has been removed and the new placement seems to be working much more smoothly.
If you’d like you try out the Canary build of Chrome for Android it is available in the Play Store. Check it out at the link below.