Google has been working on an in-app browser for Search on Android for quite sometime now. After being widely rolled out to the beta channel for the past few months, it has disappeared and reverted to Chrome Custom Tabs.
Update 9/16: With this week’s 12.36 beta, the Google app has reverted to Chrome Custom Tabs again.
Update 8/1: For a two-week period, Chrome Custom Tabs remained for users of the Google app beta. That changed in recent days as the built-in version is currently rolled out again.
Update 7/19: Over the weekend, a server-side update on Google app 12.27 curiously restored Chrome Custom Tabs and that change has persisted with the latest 12.28 beta.
Update 7/10: With version 220.127.116.11 of the Google app, the built-in browser is back and Chrome Custom Tabs have unfortunately been removed again. The update was very oddly rolled out on a Saturday.
Original 7/6: In late 2019, Google began work on a custom browser for the Google app that first appeared live for users in April of last year. It briefly disappeared at the start of July 2020 before coming back at the end of that month. Since then, it’s been widely available for beta users.
As of this evening, Google app beta users are no longer seeing the custom experience that’s visually defined by an app/top and bottom bar. Upon tapping a link from the Discover feed or Search results, there’s a four-color “G” logo and light strip at the top of the screen. It animates into the site’s domain after a few seconds, while controls at the bottom let you go back/forward, and share.
An overflow menu houses a slew of options including: Refresh, Find in page, Translate, and more. The key feature available here was “Read aloud” with the company being able to do more. It’s unclear how widely Google tested/surfaced the in-app browser for stable channel users.
Regardless, Google — for the moment — is back to the Chrome Custom Tab implementation for beta users. This makes for a much more consistent experience with third-party apps, like Twitter, and allows you to quickly “Open in Chrome” without having the page reload, thus preserving your scroll position. You also remain signed in to all your existing sites for straightforward browsing.
This old approach is there for Google app 12.25 and the just-released 12.26 beta. If you force stop the application, links will start opening in Custom Tabs shortly after.
Hopefully, Google sticks to CCT or provides the option of using that identical browser. The only option with the custom experience in testing is turning it off and having all links open (after a second of app switching) in the default browser (Chrome) you have.
Chrome Custom Tabs
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