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Following the release of Chrome 43 for desktop last week, Google today launched Chrome 43 for Android. You can download the new version now directly from Google Play.
First and foremost, Chrome for Android has gained a new feature called Touch to Search. It’s quite straightforward: You can now learn more about words and phrases on websites by simply tapping them on your screen and pulling up the info drawer, which queries Google for dictionary definitions, pictures, and search results to give you more context.
Update on June 5: Google has offered a bit more detail on Touch to Search: “Since Chrome can see the page you’re searching from, it can give you more accurate search results. For example, just tapping on ‘America’ on the page below shows a search about the movie ‘Captain America: Civil War’, not the country.
Next up, Chrome for Android has a faster checkout process. You can now quickly and securely complete checkout forms by leveraging data you’ve already entered into Google Wallet.
The app has also received the usual “bug fixes and speedy performance improvements.” Last but not least, Chrome now only supports Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and higher.
That means all of the above tweaks will not be made available to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) users. Chrome 42 is the last version of Chrome to support Android 4.0, which was released in December 2011.
When Chrome first arrived as a beta for Android devices in February 2012, it was only available for ICS, the latest version of Android at the time. Since then, Google has released 24 new Chrome versions and three new major Android versions (Jelly Bean, KitKat, and Lollipop).
In short, Google has found that developing new features on older phones has become increasingly challenging and takes time away from building experiences on the devices owned by most Android users. The FAQ adds a bit more detail:
While the number of Ice Cream Sandwich devices is shrinking, supporting them in terms of engineering effort and technical complexity is increasingly difficult over time. Each new feature or web capability that’s added to Chrome must be built and tested for ICS. Often workarounds and special cases have to be added specifically for ICS, and that adds code complexity, slows performance, and increases development time. The number of ICS devices is now sufficiently small that we can better serve our users by phasing out support for earlier devices and focusing on making Chrome better for the vast majority of users on more modern devices.
According to Google’s Platform Versions page, which is based on data gathered from the Google Play Store app, ICS had 5.3 percent adoption at the start of this month. As we noted before, Google’s decision to drop Android 4.0 support could push third-party app developers to follow suit.
Google is expected to announce the latest release of its mobile operating system, Android M, tomorrow at the I/O 2015 conference in San Francisco. We may even see a glimpse of upcoming Chrome for Android features, given how important the browser is to the platform.
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