Google Chrome on iPhone Allows Omnibox to Move to Bottom
In a surprising turn of events, Google Chrome has introduced a new feature for iPhone users, allowing them to relocate the Omnibox – the browser’s address bar – to the bottom of the screen. This development raises eyebrows, particularly among former Android Duet enthusiasts who recall the shelving of a similar feature in 2020.
For years, Android users had been voicing their desire for the option to shift the address bar to the bottom in Google Chrome. Regrettably, this feature was discontinued in 2020, leaving Android users without the coveted functionality. However, iPhone users can now revel in the ability to enable a feature flag within Chrome that relocates the Omnibox, enhancing both efficiency and user convenience.
While the feature is still in its developmental stages, its emergence on Chrome for iPhone holds promising implications for Android users. Many remain hopeful that Google will eventually introduce a comparable feature for Chrome on Android, fulfilling the long-standing wish of users to have the address bar at the bottom.
A brief flashback to 2020 reminds us of the disappointment that echoed among Android users when the much-anticipated Chrome Duet experiment met its end. This experiment, which allowed users to transition the Omnibox from the top to the bottom of the screen, was the result of four years of development efforts by Google. Alas, its termination left Android users yearning for a bottom-oriented Omnibox on Chrome. However, with this recent innovation on iPhone Chrome, that desire is now granted.
Interestingly, Apple’s native web browser, Safari, had adopted the practice of placing the address bar at the bottom of the screen years ago. In contrast, Chrome for iPhone adhered to the traditional placement at the top, often causing user frustration due to efficiency concerns. The recent discovery by Steve Moser of The Tape Drive indicates that iPhone Chrome users can now modify the Omnibox location using a feature flag (via 9to5Google).
Although the feature is still in progress, the lower part of the screen now features a gray background where the Omnibox used to be. While the change is appreciated in its current state, it does somewhat reduce the available screen real estate. Users of older iPhone models like the SE or iPhone 8 might find it acceptable, but for those using newer models released after 2017, the implementation appears less favorable.
While convention dictates that the address bar should reside at the top of phone screens, the practicality of a bottom-oriented placement becomes evident. Users naturally hold their phones from the bottom, making their thumbs more accessible to the lower portion of the screen. This concept aligns with the common design of quick-access apps situated at the bottom of smartphone home screens.
The case for a bottom-aligned address bar becomes even stronger when dealing with tall phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5. This reasoning has already prompted Samsung Internet, the default browser for Samsung devices, to incorporate an option to move the address bar’s location on smartphones. Notably, Samsung recently extended this option to tablets as well.
This recent development raises expectations for Android users. While it may seem logical for Google to have introduced this feature on Chrome for Android first, given its ownership of both the Android platform and Chrome browser, it nevertheless signifies that the aspirations tied to Chrome Duet have not been completely abandoned. Perhaps they have evolved, leaving room for the possibility that the feature flag might soon find its place on Android as well.