Chrome 84 has now been reported making its way out to the Android platform, bringing both visual user-facing changes and behind-the-scenes alterations. Most of the changes have already been reported as they appeared in the desktop version of the app as well. So the biggest differences may actually be centered on things that most users have never heard of. Namely, that's the UI experiments Google has been running associated with navigation in Chrome.
For starters, the company has now completely removed all references to Chrome Duet from its experimental 'chrome://flags' UI. That feature was intended to put the entire UI, including menus and tab switching, at the bottom of the interface. That would have placed it all in easy thumb's reach. But it's apparently gone now.
In its place, Google appears to be testing a tab strip similar to what's seen when tab grouping is turned on. But that's all not included for every user, being tucked behind experimental settings for now.
At least a few of the incoming Chrome 84 changes were expected
Now, there are a few extra features to discuss too. They're also appearing on the desktop variant so they're already fairly well known. A few have also already been working in the desktop version prior to the Chrome 84 update for Android.
In any case, the biggest of those is going to be the addition of PWA app shortcuts. As the name implies, that change effectively brings the same app shortcuts found on Android apps to Chrome-downloaded Progressive Web Apps. PWAs are essentially websites that can be downloaded — looking and functioning like full apps.
Now, those can deliver shortcuts too. That means that long-pressing on the icon for those will now pull up quick actions associated with the PWA. For instance, Google's Gmail might offer up a quick launch button for starting to compose an outgoing email.
Screen Wake Lock API is now enabled by default too. That means that sites can keep the screen locked in an 'on' position under certain circumstances. For instance, it can now keep the screen on during video or audio playback if developers have utilized Wake Lock API. And that's arriving with a new flag for Media Feeds API. As its name implies, that'll give web devs the ability to create media feeds or playlists for their sites. At the very least, once the API arrives on the Stable channel.
The final big user-facing change is the addition of a new API flag that will allow users to copy and paste images directly. Other raw data, aside from text, will also be copyable and pasteable. But Google has yet to turn the feature on.
Behind the scenes, Web OTP API lets sites read and autofill SMS data for authentication and now Android Chrome can do that too. Notification requests, conversely, will now be blocked more widely. Chrome is now addressing sites that block the page until users grant explicit permission to provide notifications. The abusive behavior is no longer allowed.
There's still one more Chrome to roll
The sole hold-out on updates to Chrome 84 is, of course, Chromebooks. Chrome OS updates typically arrive a week or two behind the standard Chrome update on desktop. Chrome OS 84, conversely, probably won't move away from that.
Now, Google has been working to change that. Summarily, it's working to decouple Chrome from Chrome OS so that the browser can be kept up to date even if a user's Chromebook stops receiving automatic OS updates. But that's not quite ready yet so the update for that platform is still going to be at least another week out.
In the interim, Chrome 84 for Android is rolling out now and will arrive as a straightforward update on the Google Play Store.