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Google Chrome For iOS Promises Data Cost Savings

New version of Chrome for iOS promises better integration with other Google apps and, soon, savings on cellular data costs.

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On the heels of an update to its Maps app for iOS, Google on Wednesday released a new version of Chrome for iOS that promises better integration with other Google apps and, soon, savings on cellular data costs.

Chrome for iOS version 28.0.1500.12, available from Apple's iTunes App Store, takes the unusual step of offering users a way to avoid using the app. In Chrome's Settings menu, there's a Google Apps submenu that includes switch buttons to open URLs associated with Google services in the appropriate native iOS application instead of in Chrome.

"[I]f you prefer to follow directions in the Google Maps app instead of in the browser, you can easily set a preference to open these links in the Maps app instead," explains Google software engineer Peter Lee in a blog post.

Through what's known as a custom URL scheme, users can also elect to open links pointing to content that can be presented in native iOS apps for Google+, Google Drive and YouTube instead of in Chrome. The Web, once celebrated by Google as the leading platform, has been cast in a supporting role on mobile devices.

[ Want to know more about Google's Maps app? Read Google Maps Winds Way To Apple iPad. ]

The latest Chrome for iOS update also comes with a promise: It will help users use less data, someday soon. Within days, Google plans to roll out what it's calling an experimental data compression service. When activated, Google says, the service can "reduce your data usage by up to 50% and load pages faster when on a cellular network." It does this through image compression and network optimizations. Presumably, this will lead to lower data bills from mobile carriers.

Once Google deploys the update enabling the service, it should be accessible on iOS devices through Chrome's Settings menu, in the Advanced section, as a switch button labeled "Reduce data usage." The service is already available in Chrome for Android.

The new Chrome app also adds voice search enhancements, access to the user's full browser history and improvements in security and stability.

Despite Apple's insistence on platform rules that put Chrome for iOS at a speed disadvantage compared to mobile Safari, Google's efforts to improve Chrome appear to be winning new iOS users. Chrome for iOS has seen its U.S. market share rise from 10.1% of iPhones in January 2013 to 18.1% in June 2012, according to Onavo.

A year after it debuted in June 2012, Chrome for iOS has captured 3.23% of the global mobile browser market, according to StatCounter. As of June 2013, the metrics firm said mobile Safari has a global browser market share of 22.77% and the iPod Touch adds another 2.21%.

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