Google has been very careful about changing Chrome’s interface and layout in the past, given its extremely large user base. That said, such a change could happen in Chrome for Android with the addition of a customizable toolbar shortcut.
On Android, the Chrome user interface has remained – after Duplex/Duet was abandoned – a toolbar with start button, address bar, tab switcher and overflow menu, which houses many actions in a long list.
Google now seems to be rolling out a “toolbar shortcut” between the Omnibox and the tab button/counter on a larger scale. One of three actions may appear here: New Tab (plus sign), Share, or Voice Search (microphone).
The button you see will default to “Based on your usage,” with Google displaying a “Current Recommendation.” New Tab and Share are already housed in the overflow menu, while Voice Search appears when you tap the address bar. The first two actions can be considered crucial to the use of the browser and it makes sense why they are increased. In fact, the abandoned redesign of the Chrome Duet bottom bar has put those actions center stage.
That said, users can manually select which shortcut they want and even disable the toolbar addition entirely via Chrome’s settings (under Advanced just below the Home button, which can also be disabled). You can also get it manually with this flag:
The shortcut on the toolbar dates back to Chrome 92 for Android in July 2021. At the time, it was rolled out to some people as part of regular A/B testing. It has seen much wider availability in recent weeks, including after version 101 went stable on Tuesday, but Google has yet to officially announce the feature and it may be removed.
This addition is a minor tweak in the grand scheme of things (and easily ignored/disabled), but it represents a significant addition to Chrome’s UI for Android’s layout. (The latter was the Material You revamp where the functionality was unchanged.) Google must think this button is a big enough improvement for users to roll it out.
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