This story was originally published and last updated .
Chrome 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 Gone are the outdated gray gradients, making way for much splashier blue and white combinations.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 could 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 for enhanced security, 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.
Given that the feature has to be explicitly implemented by devs, your bank might as well never support it if you’re unlucky. A similar API has been 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 motion-based web games or apps more accurate, if developers jump on it.
Chrome’s password manager isn’t too great at working with accounts that are shared across multiple domains, such as your Google Account for everything ranging from google.com, google.ca, youtube.com, etc. That’s why Chrome 91 is starting to test a feature that allows websites to declare that they share credentials with other sites, which will let Google’s password manager offer autofill across multiple sites without you having to manually tell it to. This functionality is only starting to roll out in Chrome 91, and sites need to actively support it, so it might take some time until you see any real-world benefit from it.
Copy-and-paste improvements on desktop
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 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 has already been live in Safari since 2018, though of course, most websites are coded with Chrome in mind and hence rarely support features not available in it.
- Different icons for dark and light mode: Google is making it easier for developers to create different sets of icons for dark and light mode.
- 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 91 is getting the first Material You tweak: You can make the overflow menu look more in place on Android 12 by activating a flag. Here’s how.
- Chrome 91 tests sacrificing usability in the name of content pushing: A test puts the Discover feed front and center on Chrome for Android’s new tab page.
Chrome 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.
This article previously covered the beta launch of Chrome 91 and has been updated to reflect that the release is now stable. Google has revealed a few more features, too, which we’ve also included.