Google Will Soon Prevent Chrome Android From Devouring Your Battery

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Chrome on Android could soon be the most battery-efficient mobile browser. That's if all goes well with a new Chrome experiment spotted by Chrome Story in the Chromium Gerrit and bug tracker. Found under the chrome://flags settings for "cpu-affinity-restrict-to-little-cores," the test is effectively examining a new use of ARM architecture.

The change, as that flag title implies, restricts the use of cores in an ARM-designed big.LITTLE chip orientation. That's the orientation found in effectively every Android smartphone. Summarily, it splits cores in the chip between two or more categories. Generally speaking, those are cores for using less power and performance-ready high-clock cores. For example, Samsung's Galaxy A51 utilizes an octa-core arrangement. Some of those are clocked at 2.3GHz while others, using less power, are clocked at 1.7GHz.

The recently spotted change essentially stops the more powerful cores from running.

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So can you check this out for yourself?

On the surface, a change in this direction makes quite a lot of sense. The browser is not necessarily utilized often for the same level of a task as, for example, a photo editing app. So it makes very little sense for it to be using the most powerful cores. Conversely, Google is also pushing towards a browser-centric app experience with PWAs. And those, once they do begin to become more 'native', will probably need to utilize more processing power.

Now, that's precisely the purpose of this experiment. To test the impact of running only on the "LITTLE" cores. And specifically how that affects power, smoothness, and "other system health metrics."

In other words, Google wants to thoroughly check to make sure this doesn't break anything. So, for the time being, it tucked the change away behind the above-mentioned flag at the "chrome://flags" URL.

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How might Chrome actually utilize this battery-saving feature?

It's not immediately clear when or if this feature will ever be pushed into mainstream 'stable channel' Chrome. Google is running a number of experiments at the moment all aimed at reducing resource-hogging. And at least some of those are arguably more important since they'll impact more devices.

It's also unclear how, exactly, Google will implement this. It may opt to, for instance, utilize Chrome CPU restrictions when Android system-level battery-saving features are turned on.  Or it might implement a new UI for controlling battery-savings directly in the browser itself.