Android apps gain massive web performance boost from Chrome custom tabs

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Android developers looking to include web content in their apps have a new option available to them that will help to greatly improve performance. The new (for the stable branch, at least) 'custom tabs' feature makes it possible to pre-load pages in the background resulting in load times that are a fraction of using WebView or firing up Chrome separately.

The feature can be used by developers to use their own app to change the way Chrome looks and feels, effectively blurring the move from app to the web. In addition to the speed advantages, custom tabs also bring improved security to apps, and provide users with a more familiar browsing experience.

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Google is pushing custom tabs as being faster than relying on the browser on its own, and less complex to implement than WebView.  Custom tabs within apps can take advantage of features of Chrome such as autofill, cookies, syncing, and saved passwords. It's not exactly a brand new feature as it has been available in the Beta and Dev versions of Chrome for a little while now, but the arrival of custom tabs in the stable build of Chrome means that more people will be able to benefit from it.

In a post on the Chromium blog, Google says:

Custom tabs are optimized to load faster than WebView and traditional methods of launching Chrome. Apps can pre-load pages in the background so they appear to load nearly instantly when the user navigates to them. Apps can also customize the look and feel of Chrome to match their app by changing the toolbar color, adjusting the transition animations, and even adding custom actions to the toolbar so users can perform app-specific actions directly from the custom tab.

Custom tabs are due to arrive in a number of popular apps including Feedly, The Guardian, and Twitter, but the ease with which they can be implemented means that they are likely to spread to even more very quickly.

Want to know more? Google has a video that explains how it all works:

Photo credit: 360b / Shutterstock

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