A new hidden setting spotted in Chrome Beta on Android can be switched on to bring back the bottom-bar tab strip. But there’s a catch. It’s nothing at all like Duet, for those who may have been hoping to see that make a comeback.
In Chrome, Duet was a novel idea introduced in Chrome’s less stable channels that moved the top-bar UI to the bottom. It was also periodically referred to as ‘duplex’ prior to the introduction of Google’s AI-driven calling feature. This doesn’t do that. It keeps the standard interface in place and instead, opens up a bottom-bar that has circular icons for each tab that’s open. There’s an ‘x’ on each one too. So they can be quickly closed as needed.
So this feature is much more akin to the bottom bar that appears when users have tab grouping turned on than Duet.
Turning on the bottom tab strip in Chrome Beta for Android appears to require two flags
As noted above, turning on this feature takes a few steps. Not the least of which is going to be downloading Chrome Beta on Android. The feature doesn’t appear to have made its way into the stable app. At least not yet.
Then, there appear to be two separate flags required to actually activate it — although that may not be the case for some users. The first, and most obvious, is that abovementioned flag “Conditional Tab Strip.”
To get to the flag, users need to open up Chrome Beta and navigate to the “chrome://flags” URL. Then they need to search out the term above. After enabling the flag, the browser will crop up a bottom-bar notification. That asks whether the user wants to restart Chrome. The restart is required.
The second flag that needs to be activated is called Duet-TabStrip Integration. AndroidHeadlines started with a fresh installation and no test features turned on. And this flag was the only other flag that was activated, with the first flag also needing to be active to get the new UI. That can be found using the same search feature used to find the other flag. Again, Chrome will need to be restarted.
If the feature doesn’t appear on the first restart, closing Chrome Beta in the Recents menu and then reopening it seems to do the trick.
Don’t expect to see this any time soon
Now, the fact that reliance on two separate hidden settings makes it seem unlikely that this feature is anywhere near ready for primetime. That’s aside from the fact that it is tucked away in the beta for Chrome 84. And Google has worked on similar features, under Duet branding, in the past. Those were summarily removed completely from the code with the exception of the above-noted flag. So that project was effectively entirely abandoned.
It wouldn’t be too surprising for Google to ultimately abandon this feature either. This seems to effectively be a test run of a completely different take on that former beta feature. Or, at the very most, given its appearance in Beta rather than Dev or Canary, a test to see how beta testers receive the feature.
In addition to this being a beta feature, it isn’t turned on by default either though. And that could ultimately mean that Google isn’t ready for wider user testing at all. So it could feasibly end up canned before it ever lands in the stable channel.