Pre-installed Chrome on Android

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.

I was feeling depressed because of a weird Chrome Android bug. I went out and bought a brand-new LG L5 to give me a new device to be annoyed at. As I had expected, its default browser was Android WebKit. 4.1.2, to be exact. Nothing special here.

I decided to install Chrome to test the bug in a brand-new install. Lo and behold, Google Play asked me if I wanted to update Chrome. Not install, mind you. Update.

I checked, and there was a Chrome 18 pre-installed on the LG. Next to the default Android WebKit. It was updatable to 30.

I was feeling distinctly confused by now. I had no idea Chrome was being pushed like this. More to the point, I had no idea that device vendors were willing (or forced) to pre-install another browser in addition to the default Android WebKit they can tweak to their heart’s content. The general rule is that they don’t like this kind of competition. Then again, Google has the clout to force Android vendors into something like this.

So I went to the S4. I found a Chrome in the app overview, but wasn’t quite sure if I’d installed it myself. So I did a factory reset, did not log into my Google account, and lo and behold: there was a Chrome 26 installed. Next to the default browser.

Now the funny point is that the S4’s default browser is Chrome 18. At least, that’s what it says, and so far my tests bear it out. So the S4 has two Chrome versions installed. One updatable (26 -> 30), one not (18).

S3: same story. After a factory reset and not logging in to my account it turned out to also have Chrome 26 installed. Next to the default browser, Android WebKit.

Is this good or is this bad? I have no idea.

It makes a mess out of any mobile browser detect, though. I assumed that Chrome’s rise in recent months was due to Samsung’s Chrome 18 default browser, but now that I’ve discovered pre-installed Chromes here, there, and everywhere I’m not so sure any more.

It’s just weird. Anyway, some more information would be greatly appreciated.

Update: A Twitter follower said that in order to ship crucial Google apps like Gmail or Maps, you must also ship Chrome. That sounds about right. I just wish Google would mention this sort of thing. It would make our lives easier. And web developers would lead he cheers if they heard this.

This is the blog of Peter-Paul Koch, web developer, consultant, and trainer. You can also follow him on Twitter or Mastodon.
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