QuirksBlog - Chromia on Android
Today it’s time for an old-fashioned browser detective story about the Miui Browser, the current state of non-Google Chromia on Android, and assumptions about browsers and UA strings. In addition, this article will highlight a few principles of mobile browser research, one of which was vindicated rather nicely.
Update: severe vulnerability discovered in Miui/Mint Browser.
Yesterday the European Commission fined Google for almost €1.5 billion for unfairly favoring some of its online advertising services over those of its rivals — and it appears the EC isn’t done yet.
One of the ongoing antitrust cases is about Android, and more specifically about Google Services, the package of Google apps such as Play, YouTube, and Chrome that Android-using hardware vendors must either adopt completely, or not at all.
So Microsoft is going to retire EdgeHTML and use Chromium instead for Edge while not really answering the question if the web [is] better off with less engine diversity. This upset people, and Mozilla, especially, is worrying about the future:
Thanks to the good offices of Dees and his Indian colleagues at Mozilla I finally received three Indian test phones two weeks ago. This is the remarkable story of how Indian phone makers are weird in some respects — even weirder than the Chinese ones. Nobody but me cares about this sort of stuff, but this is my blog, so I’ll write my piece anyway.
Recently Scientia Mobile sent me their Android WebView stats over the first quarter. I edited them slightly and put them online.
Last week I found out that as of Chrome 48
window.innerWidth/Height no longer exposes the dimensions of the visual viewport. Instead, it now exposes the dimensions of the layout viewport, and is thus a copy of
I’m not happy with this change. So it’s time for me to don my ceremonial robes as Guardian of the Viewports and ask the Chrome team to revert this change and restore the visual viewport to its rightful place.
There are three reasons why I think Chrome is making a mistake here:
- It breaks the web. ALL other browsers support this.
- It takes one simple trick for web developers to avoid problems with these properties, so the change is not necessary.
- It chokes innovation, in particular zoom-based layouts.
After my recent post about updating Chromium WebViews I was contacted by Scientia Mobile, the company behind the WURFL database, and was offered actual real-life stats!
The situation is less dire than I assumed. About 90% of the users do in fact use the latest Chromium WebView. This number is based on several hundred million hits in December 2015, primarily from North America and Europe.
This week I received my first gift phone in ages, and since the sender wants me to test it I had to go through all my dozen Android phones and update them as well, so that I can run tests against the latest installed Chromia.
During this process I began to have serious doubts about the update process of the Chromium WebView especially, though the same problems also crop up with regular Google Chrome.
TL;DR: Although, as promised, the Chromium WebView can be updated as a stand-alone app from Android 5 on, I doubt if consumers actually do so because Android’s update process is badly broken. Thus a wide variety of WebViews may be in use right now.
Fair warning: if you are unable to contemplate the simultaneous existence of several Chromium versions running on the same device without suffering from existential angst the reading of this article is discouraged until you’ve consulted your psychiatrist.
Yesterday I stumbled upon one case in which some mobile Chromes change the font size of elements without having been ordered by the CSS. This article gives a quick overview.
My test is incomplete and will likely remain so, since these changes only occur in fairly unusual circumstances, and spending days and days of research time seems wasteful. Nonetheless I want to leave a note for researchers who come after me.
Last week Niels Leenheer of HTML5 Test told me he’d released a simple Android app that mimics a browser but runs in the device’s WebView. This is ideal for testing WebViews, a topic I’ve ignored so far.
I downloaded the app to all my Android 4/5 phones except for the Huawei C8813 (Chinese firmware) where Google Play won’t run, and the LG L5, where the app crashes when you try to load a page, and catalogued which browser the WebView is (or purports to be). Here are the results:
In my Chrome post I bewailed the lack of stats that doesn’t allow me to figure out how important non-Google Chromia are. Today, however, I received 100K Chromium hits from a Dutch mobile ad network. Although these numbers are not representative for the entire world, any data is better than no data, so here it goes.
Google Chrome is not the default browser on Android 4.3+. There are now at least eight Chromium-based Android default browsers, and they are all subtly, though not wildly, different.
The number of Chromium family members has recently risen from nine to eleven with the addition of HTC and LG Chromium, default browsers for modern HTC and LG high-end devices.
Moreover, LG uses at least two different versions (30 and 34) concurrently, while HTC replaced Android WebKit by HTC Chromium over the air. As far as I know none of this has been done before — so far.
In order to prove that they’re different we will study zoom reflow, a feature that HTC and Xiaomi support, but the others, including Google, don’t.
This week I finally gathered the courage to run the media query test suite I wrote over a year ago in the latest crop of mobile browsers. The results are moderately interesting, especially when it comes to Chromium-based browsers. I discovered a new one: Xiaomi Chromium. It’s the ninth I identified, and the first one I had to work really hard on in order to get a version number.
For at least a year now I’ve held to the theory that the huge uptake in Chrome we’re seeing on the mobile web is mostly due to Samsung using its own version (based on Chromium 28) in its high-end smart devices from the Galaxy S4 on.
Yesterday Krijn started tweeting about mobile stats he had, and it turned out he was willing to share. He gave me data on about 100K mobile and tablet hits in Q2 on a project of his he’s worked on for
ages five years. I took the data gratefully and created a table.
Conclusion: Of Chrome users, 25% uses Samsung Chrome — this amounts to about 5% of all mobile visits to the site. On the one hand this proves that Samsung Chrome is a Thing — on the other hand I had expected a much higher percentage. So my theory isn’t right, but Samsung Chrome is still important.
Today, quite by coincidence, I found out that the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4, as well as the LG L5, have Chrome pre-installed next to their default browsers. I have no clue what’s going on and would like a clarification from the Chrome team.