Chrome 48 for iOS brings massive speed and stability improvements

— 12:51 PM on January 27, 2016

Version 48 of the Chrome browser was released today. While this release doesn't deserve much fanfare for its desktop operating system incarnations, it's a whole 'nother story in iOS. The new version uses the same rendering engine as recent versions of Safari on iOS, and that's kind of a big deal.

With the updated engine, Chrome on iOS gets a massive speed boost (sometimes an order of magnitude faster, as demonstrated by the Octane JavaScript benchmark), and it should crash a lot less often. Google estimates that crashes will be reduced 70% , due to browser and renderer process separation.

Background tab management is improved, too. The company says users will see 25% fewer page reloads when switching to an old tab. Other improvements include smoother and more responsive scrolling, and the ability to search bookmarks directly in iOS' Spotlight.

If you're wondering why the situation was so bad before today, here's a quick history lesson. Back in the day, if you were an iOS developer and wanted to make a browser app, you were pretty limited in your choices. Apple never allowed third-party browser rendering engines on iOS (and possibly never will), so developers had to wrap their browsers around Safari's rendering engine. This meant integrating with Apple's UIWebView API, which became outdated around iOS 4.3 when the much-improved Nitro rendering engine was released.

The problem is that Nitro initally wasn't available to third-party developers at all. Even when Apple opened it up with iOS 8's release (under the WKWebView API), it still had some integration limitations that made it difficult for Google to use it as Chrome's engine. Since then, Google has worked with Apple to improve the situation, and the fruits of that labor are now on offer to the world.

iOS users looking to try the new version can hit the iTunes store to install or update Chrome.

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