Facebook revealed yesterday that it is finally making a real, fully native iOS app. Until now, Facebook’s app has been based on web tech — it’s a browser and a mobile site inside of a blue-colored wrapper, basically. So why the sudden change of course? Because in-app browsers are required to suck in iOS. And barring some kind of special exemption, it’s virtually guaranteed the Chrome for iOS will have to use the same slower browser engine that Facebook has been suffering with.
But other apps that want to include a browser function, be they Facebook or an actual alternative browser like Chrome, don’t get Nitro. And developers can’t use their own engines, either. For security reasons, the browser developers get to use in their apps is a variant of an older, pre-Nitro version, called UIWebView. Here’s how Apple describes it:
You use the UIWebView class to embed web content in your application. To do so, you simply create a UIWebView object, attach it to a window, and send it a request to load web content.
The ability to sync bookmarks and history, and to use Incognito Mode, is certainly useful, and the prefetching feature will help speed things up. And I generally like the choices Google has made with the Chrome interface elsewhere. But the best thing about Chrome on desktop is that it feels faster than every other browser, and Chrome on iOS almost certainly isn’t going to have that.
6. Update: Yeah, it’s way slower than Safari
Browsing feels fairly snappy, but certainly slower than Mobile Safari. Most damning is Gmail performance. In Chrome for iOS, it’s a bit choppy. In Mobile Safari, it’s much smoother.