6 tools that make Chrome for Android so friggin’ extra

Google Chrome for Android comes equipped with many of the streamlined features to be expected from the pioneers of one-click culture. Many of the tools offer an even sleeker look and improvements to already intuitive synchronicity across Google interfaces. One amazing new tool unlocked a whole world you never knew existed on your Android device. (More on that later.) First, the basics:

Streamlined Tab Navigation

No more scrolling to the bottom of the Samsung Internet browser and tapping through a menu of various tab functions. The new Chrome for Android tab design is easy to tap and swipe around. Tap the plus symbol (+) at the top left of the address bar to open a new tab. Tap the numbered square to the right of the address bar to swipe through all the tabs currently open. Simple as that.

Chrome Beta Lower Address Bar
*Lower address bar available on Chrome Beta only

Lowering the Address Bar*

That’s right. They moved the address bar to the bottom of the screen. You know…where your thumbs are.

Sliding Text Scaling

While this may not be a big concern for some users, accessibility options are an often overlooked consideration. Using a sliding scale to adjust text size offers a more customizable visual experience than the traditional “small-medium-large” options. It’s a subtle but important touch of consideration to provide the optimum accessibility for everyone. So sweet. So extra.

Incognito Mode

Simply put, it’s a browser tab that does not keep a history on your device. It’s important to note that any files you download to your device will still be visible in your device storage folders, and your browsing history may still be accessible by your mobile network or wireless service provider. Handy if you share your device with another person, or have that one mischievous friend who always seems to find your phone when unattended.

Chrome Incognito Logo
Tap the menu to open an Incognito tab.

Now for the sweet stuff…the tools that may change the way you look at your little pocket computer forever. As a proud new coder and Udacity Scholar, my first thought when downloading Chrome for Android was “I wonder if the same dev tools from the desktop version are available on the mobile version.” After all, Google is all about convenience and creating your own opportunities whenever, wherever.

After spending an evening experimenting with some simple code using the DroidEdit Free coding app on my Galaxy S7, I naively thought this meant I would get to see live test versions in-app so that I could see how my creation would look on my mobile device. I was super annoyed to realize that, unless I wanted to pay for the pro version of the app, I would still have to copy/paste all the code into a site like Code Pen to see a live test of my creation, and even then it would be an emulation of my creation on a mobile browser. With Chrome for Android, this frustration is virtually eliminated.

Dev Tools

With Google Chrome Dev Tools now integrated with Android Developer Options, you can:

  • Debug content on your own Android from your computer. (USB connection required)
  • Seamlessly test how new code and bug fixes will appear directly on your mobile device. (USB connection required)
  • Theoretically, create and maintain a website entirely from your mobile device (though, let’s be real, that may be a little *too* extra for most of us.)
Chrome Dev Tools Android Screencast
Android Screencast of Chrome Dev Tools

Connect your Android to your desktop or laptop via USB cable, then open Development Tools in Google Chrome on your developer machine. Chrome’s dev tools will recognize your device. Once connected, you can begin screencasting to receive input directly from your developer machine to your Android.

If Developer Options are not immediately showing up on your Android settings menu, don’t fret. There is a solution. Cue bonus feature….

Cheat Codes!

Who doesn’t love a good ol’ fashioned cheat code? If you’re using Android Version 8 or later, in order to access the dev tools that allow you to debug directly on your device, you must first find the hidden portal beneath the bridge after answering three questions from- Relax, it’s not nearly that complicated. Just go to the System Settings menu on your Android device. If Developer Options is already visible – great! Tap it and make sure the Developer Options toggle is set to “enabled,” then go to town with Chrome’s dev tools.

Android Developer Options
Developer Options available on Android

If you don’t see Developer Options in the System Settings menu, tap About Phone. Then (here’s the fun part) scroll to the bottom and tap 7 times on Build Number. After about the 4th tap a pop up will appear to count down the number of taps left to unlock your future Developer Options. This unlocks all the developer options available to you on your Android device, not just with Chrome.

From here, you can accelerate your network and configure hardware settings. If you’re using Android 8.0 or higher, you can even tap Quick Settings Developer Tiles to add developer options to your Quick Settings menu (you know, for quick dev-ing on the go!) It’s a world of device customization that many of us may never have discovered without Google Chrome for Android.