New Motorola phones first to get Chrome for Android browser

Google's new browser struggles to gain usage share

The first smartphones to rely on Google's Chrome browser for Android will be Motorola Mobility's just-announced Droid Razr M, Droid Razr Maxx and Droid Razr HD, the company said Wednesday.

The Droid Razr M, the only one of the trio that was pegged with a price and ship date yesterday, costs $99.99 and will hit Verizon stores next week. Customers can pre-order a Razr M now from Verizon's website.

Chrome will be bundled on all three models, replacing other browsers, including Google's aged stock Android application, that are usually pre-installed on Android smartphones.

The move shouldn't have been a surprise: Motorola Mobility is a subsidiary of Google, which acquired the handset maker in May.

Google launched Chrome for Android in February, saying then that the long-term plan was for "Chrome to become the standard browser on Android 4.0 and above."

Chrome shifted from beta to a so-called "stable" build -- analogous to a final production version -- on June 27, the same day Google unveiled its Nexus 7 tablet, which also includes the browser.

Chrome for Android is based on Chrome 18, putting it three versions behind the current stable build for Google's desktop browser.

Because Chrome for Android requires Android 4.0 and later -- in other words, the editions dubbed "Ice Cream Sandwich" and "Jelly Bean" -- it has made little headway on the usage charts. Together, Android 4.0 and 4.1 power about 22% of all Android devices.

According to Web analytics company Net Applications, Chrome for Android accounted for just 0.5% of all mobile browsers that went online in August.

Apple's Safari 5.1, with a 48.3% share, is the world's most-used mobile browser in Net Applications' tracking.

Irish measurement company StatCounter, a rival to Net Applications in browser usage ranking, does not publish data about individual editions of Android-based browsers.

Although Chrome for Android will be the default browser for the new Razr smartphones, owners of other Android devices running Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean can download the free browser from Google Play.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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