Hands on: Chrome for iOS adds full-screen, save to PDF

Google recently reheated the browser wars with the announcement that it would be switching rendering engines for Chrome. But despite iOS’s prohibition on non-WebKit-based browsers, the search giant isn’t letting its version of Chrome for Apple’s mobile platform languish.

The latest update to Google Chrome for iOS adds a few new features that make it an even more compelling offering: a full-screen mode for the iPhone and iPod touch, as well as printing capabilities that perhaps even surpass Safari’s own offering.

Google Chrome's full-screen mode works in portrait and landscape, and eschews the overlay-style buttons Safari uses.

Of the new features, the full-screen mode in the iPhone and iPod touch isn’t necessarily something to write home about. Keep scrolling a page and the location bar will scroll up and off the screen—Safari on iOS has long had a similar behavior. But since, unlike Safari, all of Chrome’s controls are located on that top toolbar, you really do get a true “full-screen” experience in landscape and portrait. You can bring the toolbar back by scrolling back up or, as in most iOS apps, tapping the status bar at the top of the screen.

By comparison, iOS 6’s full-screen mode for Safari only works in landscape mode, and even there you get overlay buttons that may obscure part of the screen.

However, the new printing features are the more interesting of what’s on offer here. Chrome now supports iOS’s built-in AirPrint service, letting you print to any compatible printer or use it with third-party software like Printopia.

Both iOS's built-in AirPrint feature and Google's Cloud Print features are available in Chrome.

But Google’s also built in support for its own Cloud Print service. Like AirPrint, you can also use CloudPrint to wirelessly send a page to a compatible printer, but the service also allows you to hook up your existing printer via your Chrome account or take advantage of a number of other supported services.

Saving to a PDF, a feature not currently available in Safari, is one of the highlights of the latest Chrome update.

In particular, though, Chrome for iOS lets you save any page you’re viewing as a PDF, and stores it on your Google Drive. You can then access the saved PDF via your computer on the Web, or in the Google Drive app on your iOS device. OS X has offered print-to-PDF for some time, but the feature been absent on iOS (in part because there’s no logical place for a PDF to be saved on iOS). While you can accomplish something similar on iOS, it requires the use of third-party software.

Google is clearly not ready to cede iOS as a platform for its browser; the company continues to add features at a rapid clip. And with offerings like Google Maps and Google Search, the company’s iOS ecosystem is become ever more compelling for many users.

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