Chrome 80 For Android Is More About Refinement Than New Features

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Chrome 80 for Android is now officially rolling out but, based on recent reports, this version seems to be more about refinement than user-facing improvements. In fact, some of the biggest changes here will be felt by those that utilize experimental flag features. Those are the features typically found by visiting "chrome://flags" and aren't necessarily recommended for the average user.

Perhaps the most impactful change on that front comes in the form of Chrome for Android's removal of Reader Mode. Previously found at the under the flags #reader-mode-heuristics and #enable-reader-mode-in-cct flags, the feature was initially intended to work similarly to Firefox's reader view. It cuts back on imagery and advertisements, leaving only text — including an estimate for how long a page should take to read.

Less impactful, Chrome 80 also removes the #enable-horizontal-tab-switcher flag. That means users will no longer be able to scroll through their tabs from left to right or vice versa.

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Finally, Google appears to be abandoning the idea of allowing users to navigate both backward and forward with gestures. The company removed the #enable-horizontal-tab-switcher flag from Chrome 80. That experimental feature built on the framework of swiping back from the left edge in Android 10. In effect, it added a forward navigation swipe gesture from the right-hand edge.

So what exactly is new in Chrome 80 for Android?

Aside from dropping support for previously reported incoming features, Chrome 80 for Android follows almost identically with changes in the desktop variant.

The biggest change there is that it introduces Quieter UI as a way to less intrusively see where notifications from a given site are blocked. Found by navigating to Chrome settings, Notifications, Advanced, and then Additional settings, Quieter UI effectively blocks off all notifications. It also moves the pop-up for that to a card along the lower section of a page and out of the way of page content.

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All sites that aren't already given a pass on notifications will have their notifications blocked. The UI will prompt users to tell them about the blocking. That prompt also showcases a button to allow notifications for the site in question. Sites that already have a low "acceptance rate" for notifications will automatically utilize Quieter UI. For users that have already blocked most sites in Settings, the feature will be automatically enabled.

In addition to that change, Chrome 80 for Android will also now automatically try to update standard HTTP sites to the more secure HTTPS protocol. For sites with the use of cookies left undefined, Chrome 80 will automatically make those more secure too. Summarily, it will auto-define undefined cookies as being unusable for cross-site purposes.

That latter change stacks on top of other security-focused behind-the-scenes features too. Synchronous network requests that are sent while a user is closing tabs will now be denied. Popups that are activated when a tab is closed will be too.

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Just one platform left to update

The update to version 80 for Chrome for Android leaves just one platform left to be updated. Specifically, that's Chrome OS. Google's dedicated desktop and laptop platform based on Chrome won't see its update for a few more weeks. The company has that scheduled to land on February 11.

That date should not necessarily be taken at face value though. The search giant has not done a great job of sticking to that scheduling and not every device will see that at once. Chromebooks and other Chrome OS gadgets see updates with a much slower rollout as well. So, although the rollout may start on February 11, it could take weeks to over a month before every user sees it.