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First look: Google's Chrome browser comes to iPad, iPhone

Google's popular Chrome browser, previously available across a wide range of platforms, finally came to Apple's iOS App Store on Thursday, offering cross-platform syncing and connectivity with Google services.

The Chrome browser is a free application (iTunes link) now available in the App Store. The 12.8 megabyte download is a universal application compatible with iPhones, iPad and iPod touches running iOS 4.3 or later.

Upon launching Chrome for the first time, users are asked to enter their Google account e-mail address and password, though this step can be skipped. By tying Chrome for iOS to a Google account, users can sync their personalized Chrome settings from their computer or other device.

Chrome syncs open tabs, bookmarks, passwords, and omnibox data from a computer to the iOS browser. Users can also send pages from Chrome on their computer to an iOS device with one click, and they can even be cached for offline reading.

Given that Google is a search company, it's no surprise that searching is a priority with Chrome. Like in the desktop version of the browser, the same box is used to navigate to a website or to search Google.

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Chrome also features a custom keyboard that adds frequently used characters when searching or typing in a URL to the top of the virtual keyboard. A row featuring the colon, period, dash, slash and .com keys sits above the traditional QWERTY interface.

Google's browser also has a dedicated microphone button for quick voice searches to the far right. Tapping on the microphone instantly puts the iPad into listening mode, and searching by voice works quickly and accurately.

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Also readily available is a drop-down menu with options for a new tab, new incognito tab, bookmarks, e-mail, settings, help and more. One option "Other Devices," allows users to view tabs they have open in Chrome on other devices, like a Mac or PC.

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Unlike Apple's Safari browser for iOS, Google Chrome allows users to open an unlimited number of tabs. Tabs can be flipped through on iPhone or iPod touch like fanning a deck of cards, while on iPad users swipe from edge to edge.

The incognito mode previously found on other versions of Chrome also makes its way to iOS. Incognito allows users to browse the web without saving their history.

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Chrome is a welcome addition on iOS, but what it needs more than anything is for Apple to update the iOS mobile operating system to allow users to change their default browser. Currently, opening a URL in a separate application, like Mail, will automatically launch the website in Safari, which is Apple's native built-in browser for iOS.