The latest beta of Chrome, version 91, has just hit the first few phones, and while you might not notice too many differences on the surface, there are quite some things going on if you know where to look. The most significant visual changes you’ll see on Android are probably the redesigned website buttons and forms, like those you can see in the weekend polls of our own website. But there’s more going on. Let’s dive in.
New form control visuals on websites
Left: Radio button in Chrome 90. Right: Radio button in Chrome 91.
Many websites use standard HTML buttons, forms, and checkboxes that allow visitors to fill out forms, but they’re looking extremely dated at this point. Microsoft took up the challenge to redesign them for its Chromium-based Edge browser, and the new visuals already made their way into Google Chrome for desktops in version 83. Now they’re finally coming to Chrome for Android. Gone are the outdated gray gradients, making way for much splashier blue and white combinations. While many websites use their own designs thanks to CSS, the few remaining places that rely on standard HTML are in for a small facelift.
Left: Old controls. Right: New controls.
Websites can now proactively help save battery life
Google is giving web developers tools that could help your phone last longer. Starting with Chrome 91, sites can recommend your browser to slow down certain processes that aren’t vital to your experience. For example, websites can instruct your browser to reduce framerates or allow for slower script speeds.
The measures can be implemented even before your phone’s battery gets close to empty, but they’re mostly meant to help phones save energy in specific ways that don’t ruin the user experience on websites when you’re in battery saving mode. Google gives examples such as video or video-conferencing sites that use a lot of CPU power. Meanwhile, slowing down scripts could help websites save energy on background tasks, like running third-party ad setups or pre-rendering off-screen content.
Soon, you might be able to find text hidden in these closed menus.
You know how you can search for text on websites by hitting up the overflow menu in the top right corner and tapping the “Find in page” entry? You’ll soon be able to find hidden text using that option, too, with websites automatically expanding the menus where that text is hidden in — once and if sites implement support for this method. The magic behind this lies in CSS. A new value (content-visibility: hidden-matchable) allows websites to specify that a certain text is hidden, but that users should be able to find it when they’re searching for it. This will be useful when you’re dealing with collapsed FAQ sections or Google’s own help pages with their nested menus.
Improved SMS OTP autofill
Chrome 91 is introducing improvements to the WebOTP API, first launched in Chrome 84. It allows websites to obtain one-time passwords sent via SMS, which are typically used to verify phone numbers or serve as a second factor when you log in to some online services (you should always opt for SMS-less solutions when possible, though). Chrome 91 now also allows so-called cross-origin iframes to access your OTP code when needed. That’s handy when you’re buying something online and a shop shows you a form from your bank to verify your credit card. That form should now be able to obtain OTP codes, too.
Look ma, no hands!
Given that the feature has to be explicitly implemented by devs, your bank might as well never support it if you’re unlucky. The same API is also available for Android apps since 2017.
Better web games thanks to the GravitySensor API
The GravitySensor API was first introduced in Chrome 90 as a test and is now finalized enough to be enabled by default. With it, Google is looking to make it easier for developers to access gravity sensor data. Web devs currently have to rely on manually deriving readings from the accelerator sensor to guess gravity, but that can be imprecise depending on the accuracy of the sensor. The new GravitySensor API will allow developers to pull that data directly. This could make some motion-based web games or apps more accurate, if developers jump on it.
Google is making it easier for websites to access your clipboard when you want to paste content, at least on your desktop. The measure was first implemented in Chrome 90, but it’s only going live by default in version 91. Google wants to make copy-and-pasting as seamless as dragging-and-dropping files on websites. When you hit copy (or Ctrl+c) on a file in your file manager, you usually weren’t able to simply hit paste (or Ctrl+v) in older versions of Chrome to move that file to a website. That’s because websites typically don’t have native access to your file explorer’s path, which is what you’ve essentially copied there. But Chrome wants to change that and is working on allowing web apps to read and access that specific path in your clipboard (only once you send the paste command, of course). This would essentially allow you to add files to a website without having to rely on drag-and-drop or those pesky file picker dialogs. A similar feature is already live in Safari, though of course, most websites are coded with Chrome in mind and hence rarely support features not available in it.
- Suggested file name and location for the File System Access API: Web apps can now suggest names and the location for files or directories they’re creating.
- Link capturing for Progressive Web Apps: When you’re opening a link from a web app (in its own window), the web app can now specify where that link should be opened if it’s internal. That allows it to create a new window displaying the content of the address.
- Hide the reading list on desktops: Chrome might soon let you hide the reading list from the bookmark menu.
Chrome Beta 91 is currently rolling out on the Play Store, but you can also download it from APK Mirror. If you have trouble launching the app after installing it via the latter method, make sure you’ve got the corresponding version of the Trichrome Library.