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Latest Google app beta tests new in-app web browser

When some Android apps need to open a web page, sometimes they will use a what’s called a Chrome Custom Tab to display the page in a themed tab provided by your phone’s default browser. As of the latest beta update, the Google app is moving away from this style of browser to include an in-app browser of its own.

As first shown by our APK Insight team at the end of last year, Google has been hard at work on a new browser experience for the Google Search app. This week, following a beta update to version 11.6.6 of the Google app, the browser is now fully functional and rolling out to some. So far though, we’ve only confirmed the new in-app browser to arrive on one device, which suggests a fairly limited rollout.

If you’re part of the rollout, any link you click within the Google app — things like search results and cards in the Discover feed — will bring you to a new page that prominently shows the Google “G” logo on the loading bar. Below this, while the page is loading, you’ll see an animated four-color bar, a pleasant detail that wasn’t there when we last saw it in November.

Otherwise, the experience is fairly similar to what Chrome Custom Tabs offered, being a slimmed-down web browser with no address bar or even typical buttons like back and forward, though it is still possible to go back using the Android back button/gesture. Under the hood, Google Search’s new browser is essentially an embedded version of Chrome, with the browser’s User Agent indicating that it is Chrome 81.

The top bar offers a few simple controls to close the browser, add the current page to one of your Google collections, or share the page. In the overflow menu, you’ll find an option to refresh the page or open it in a full browser tab.

One disadvantage of the Google app’s browser is that by being a completely different browser, choosing to open the page in your main browser causes the page to start anew, losing your scroll position and any changes you may have made. Thankfully, the overflow menu also offers a link to settings, from which you can disable “Open web pages in Google app” to get things back to the way they were, or simply clear the browser’s history.

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Avatar for Kyle Bradshaw Kyle Bradshaw

Kyle is an author and researcher for 9to5Google, with special interests in Made by Google products, Fuchsia, and Stadia.

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