February 8, 2012, 1:36 PM

Google polishes Chrome for Android

A mobile version of the web browser is available for Android 4.0 devices.

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The mobile version of the popular browser is available only for devices using the latest operating system.

Consumers who own smartphones and tablets running the latest version of Google Inc.’s Android mobile operating system now can use Google’s Chrome web browser.

Google has released a beta version of mobile Chrome. Retailers need do nothing to ensure their mobile commerce sites work properly in the browser, a Google spokeswoman says. “If the web site has a mobile version, the user will be re-directed automatically, while Chrome for Android Beta can also load full desktop-version web sites on mobile devices,” she says.

Since its 2008 release, the desktop version of Chrome has become one of the top three web browsers, according to data from StatCounter, a web analytics firm. For the year to date, Chrome garners 19.37% of browser use compared with 46.37% for Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer and 20.22% for the Firefox browser from Mozilla.org. Apple Inc.’s Safari browser has 12.61% of the market.

“All our data shows increasing usage of the web on phones and tablets,” the Google spokeswoman says. “Our goal with Chrome for Android beta was to build a mobile browser from the ground up that provides the same fast, simple experience people have come to expect from surfing the web on their desktop and really push the boundaries of what is possible on the mobile web. This is good for users, retailers, and the web as a whole.”

One distinction between the desktop and mobile versions of Chrome is how each version presents search results. Unlike on a PC, search results on the mobile browser appear as a “link preview,” which makes the links to be touched more prominent on the page, Google says, and thus making it easier to tap the link on a touchscreen.

Retailers need to understand how consumers use web browsers, says Brian Kilcourse, managing director at Retail Systems Research LLC, a consulting and research firm.

“Google's big play in retail will be in its ability to help retailers understand consumers' complex paths to purchase, which nowadays means using all of the digital channels to investigate, select, and pay for goods and services even if ultimately the consumer takes possession of purchases in a store,” Kilcourse says.

The mobile version of Chrome currently only is available for Android devices using version 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich. Google’s Android developer site says only 1% of devices, such as Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus smartphone, have this software.

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