Incognito mode in Chrome is one of the easiest ways to browse privately and now that's possible again thanks to a phone-freezing bug fix from Google. Apparently released in the most recent update to the browser, the bug fix does exactly that. It stops a months-long problem in the mobile browser that froze or crashed many users' phones when exiting an Incognito tab. It was also reportedly crashing for some PC and laptop users.
Now, users access Incognito mode for a variety of reasons.
Some of those are mundane. Such as logging in with a second Google account or to give a friend or family member access to the web. That's without impacting history or ad recommendations, or inexplicably linking the accounts. But privacy is another big reason.
Incognito mode is great when browsing history needs not to be kept. And that's useful for a lot of reasons, not just for those that probably leap immediately to mind.
So having a phone keep freezing or crashing on exit is at best a potentially very bad scenario to find oneself in. Summarily, with the bug still in place, it was very easy to have the browsing go from private to open to anybody who glanced at the screen without warning. Now, that should no longer be an issue. Although users will likely want to try a few test runs before pulling up anything too risque.
Where did the Incognito mode, phone-freezing bug originate in Chrome?
Underlying the problem, according to bug reports on the matter, Google says Chrome was attempting to perform actions it didn't need to. Namely, Chrome was attempting to manually clean up the browser history. And that was happening for some users every time they closed their last remaining Incognito tab.
The process Chrome was trying to accomplish there was, put simply, something that it really didn't need to do at all. The browser stores activity in Incognito mode separately, directly in device memory as opposed to the longer-term storage.
Chrome releases that data profile when the final Incognito tab and window are closed as a matter of course. That means that it's all but guaranteed to be immediately overwritten by other processes that need the RAM. Whether that's by non-Incognito tabs in Chrome, system-level apps, or third-party processes.
Chrome was attempting, in effect, to duplicate the process manually. The browser bogged down and the result was hang-ups and crashes.
To fix it, update Chrome
The phone-freezing fix for Chrome Incognito mode on Android is officially merged to both milestone versions 86 and 85. That means that users simply need to update their Chrome browser to take advantage of the latest fix. The latest version should be a slight iteration from the standard Chrome 85 for Android to version 85.0.4183.121 or newer.