Google Expands Chrome Data Compression Feature On iOS

Google has begun expanding access to its Chrome data compression feature to more users, specifically those on iOS devices who have the company’s mobile browser app installed. The feature’s existence was announced some time ago, but TechCrunch understands that Google is now rolling out notifications about its iOS availability to more users, making many aware of the feature for the first time.

As someone who recently recovered from a stroke induced by a $600 mobile bill courtesy of my household’s data-hungry smartphones and tablets, consider me personally interested in advancements in mobile data compression technology — in whatever shape or form they arrive.

In Google’s case, the company said back in March that it was releasing a new feature for the Chrome Beta for Android browser that would speed up web browsing and save on bandwidth. Essentially a Google proxy, the feature routes web requests through Google’s servers where the company’s PageSpeed libraries compress and optimize the content. The connection between the browser and Google’s servers is also handled by the SPDY protocol for further optimization.

This process can reduce data usage by 50 percent, as it both compresses and minimizes HTML, JavaScript and CSS resources, removing unnecessary whitespace, comments and other metadata not essential to rendering the pages, the company previously explained. To some extent, the feature is similar to Opera’s “Turbo” mode in its desktop and mobile browsers, as well as the compression capabilities that ship with Amazon’s Silk browser, though Google’s technology is designed to not slow down browsing quite as much as Opera’s, in particular, once did.

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Earlier this summer, Google noted that it would begin rolling out its experimental data compression technology to Chrome users on iPhone and iPad, but we hadn’t heard much about that expansion since. However, we’ve confirmed that more users are now being introduced to the option because Google is starting to alert them via notification pop-ups asking them if they would like to opt in to this “limited preview.” These seemed to have been kicked off following a recent update to the Chrome iOS application in mid-September.

The notifications read “you’re invited” and encourage users to “save bandwidth and browse more securely” by tapping the big blue “Enable” button below the alert’s text. If you choose to opt in, you’re taken to a Settings interface where you can toggle “Reduce Data Usage” on or off, and presumably later view the ongoing savings Google provides. Unfortunately, without the invite, there doesn’t appear to be a way to toggle the feature on by yourself. Similarly, if you initially decline the invite, you can’t seem to pull up the option a second time. (Got a workaround? Let us know.)

Google is running a staged rollout on iOS because it’s unable to test new features like this, as it does on Android, where a beta version of Chrome is supported. It’s unclear how many users are being invited into the early tests so far, but it appears to still be a rather limited trial given social media postings and other tips. Stay tuned.

[View the story “Chrome Data Compression on iOS” on Storify]