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Google Chrome ‘touchless’ mode spotted online; Android may be heading to feature phones

It was speculated that this version of Google Chrome was meant for KaiOS but KaiOS apps are based on HTML5 making it impossible.

  • Published: March 19, 2019 12:07 PM IST
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Image: Google


Google and Android have long been focused on Smartphones with a recent shift towards smartphones with weaker hardware with Android Go edition of its operating system. However, things are set to change if the latest information online is to be believed. According to reports, it looks like Google may be planning to bring its in-house mobile operating system Android to feature phones. This comes right along the time when screenshots about a “Touchless” mode in Google Chrome were spotted. Considering Google Chrome is one of the primary apps on Android, it is quite possible that Google may also be planning to develop a separate version of Android that is capable of running on feature phones.

According to a report by 9to5Google, screenshots of the “touchless” mode indicate that the company may expand the reach of its web browser from Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, Fuchsia, and even iOS, to include feature phones running KaiOS. A separate report stated that Google may also move ahead to push Android to feature phones. The report also stated that the separate version of Android is likely to be just regular Android with a “touchless” interface. This means that Google is likely to integrate the “touchless” mode deep in Android so that the OS can morph depending on the device without the need of maintaining a different mode.

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The details about the “touchless” mode for Google Chrome were spotted on Chromium’s Gerrit source code management. As part of the report, this mode will allow users to navigate the internet with the help of Chrome on devices without any touch input. This could be vague as there are a number of devices without touch interface but screenshots from a Google developer hint that the devices that Google wants this mode to work on are similar to feature phones from Nokia with the screen resolution of 480 x 640.

Image credit: 9to5Google

The screenshots indicate that the company seems to have reworked the interface based on feature phones where 1 and 3 keys are for zoom in and zoom out, 2 key is to move between “cursor” and “spatial” navigation modes. The spatial navigation mode will make use of the D-pad on the devices. Some websites may not work with the “spatial” navigation mode and for this reason, the company has added the old school “cursor” navigation mode. The browsers will be low-powered without any incognito mode or multiple tabs.

The report also stated that the app will close the older tab in case the user wants to navigate to a new web page. However, in the case of accidentally closing the old tab, the browser will also come with an option that will let users reopen the previous tab. This version of Chrome will stay open in the background until the OS runs out of memory to ensure that it “feels” fast on feature phones.

It was speculated that this version of Chrome was meant for KaiOS, the currently major player in the feature phone market. However, KaiOS apps are based on HTML5 while running on KaiOS browser which makes Chrome impossible. It is worth noting that no references about the “Touchless” mode have been discovered in the Android Open Source Project or anywhere outside Chrome at the time of writing. Given that Google has not revealed anything in any capacity, we will have to wait for more information on this new mode for Android.

  • Published Date: March 19, 2019 12:07 PM IST