Chrome comes to iOS

Google’s Chrome browser is now available for the first time for the iPad and iPhone, free from Apple’s App Store.

Marking the latest stage in the increasingly direct competition between the two companies, the browser is already – after just a few hours – the store’s top selling app.

The app runs on iOS 4.3 or later. Its big selling point is the synchronisation of tabs, browsing history and passwords. The company claims to have 310 million active users on other devices. It also includes an Incognito browsing mode.

“By signing in to Chrome, you can easily move from your desktop, laptop, smartphone and tablet and have all of your stuff with you,” says senior vice president for Chrome and apps Sundar Pichai.

Up to now, Opera Mini and the recently-launched Yahoo Axis have been the only alternative browsers for iOS users. However, the launch of Chrome for iOS may mark a change of heart, and a possible place on the App Store for other browsers, such as Internet Explorer and Firefox, too.

But while Apple’s happy for Chrome 5.1.1 to appear in the store, it hasn’t given Google access to Safari’s JavaScript engine, which means the app has certain performance limitations. And iOS users still can’t opt out of using Safari as their default browser.

While the app’s free, it should still make plenty of money for Google through shared advertising revenue.

Also new at Google’s I/O conference in San Francisco yesterday is the announcement that the Docs word processor, now under the Drive umbrella, is now available for offline use.

“With the Drive app, you can open PDFs, photos, videos, documents and anything else stored in your Drive while you’re on the go,” says product management director Clay Bavor.

“You can also search all your files, add collaborators to documents, and make files available offline to view them even without an internet connection. For blind and low-vision users, the app also works great in VoiceOver mode.”