Google has historically been very cautious about changing Chrome’s interface and layout given the extremely large user base. That said, one such change might be underway in Chrome for Android with the addition of a customizable toolbar shortcut.
On Android, the Chrome UI has remained — following Duplex/Duet being abandoned — a toolbar with home button, address bar, tab switcher, and overflow menu, which houses many actions in a long list.
Google now appears to be more widely rolling out a “toolbar shortcut” between the Omnibox and tab button/counter. One of three actions can appear here: New tab (plus sign), Share, or Voice search (microphone).
By default, what button you see is “Based on your usage,” with Google providing a “Current recommendation.” New tab and Share are already housed in the overflow menu, while Voice search appears when tapping the address bar. The first two actions can be considered critical to browser usage and it makes sense why they’d be elevated. In fact, the abandoned Chrome Duet bottom bar redesign put those actions front and center.
That said, users can manually select what shortcut they want and even turn off the toolbar addition entirely from Chrome settings (under Advanced just below the Homepage button, which can also be disabled). You can also manually get it with this flag:
The toolbar shortcut dates back to Chrome 92 for Android in July of 2021. At the time, it rolled out to some people as part of normal A/B testing. It has been seeing 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 might end up being pulled.
This addition is a small tweak in the grand scheme (and easily ignored/disabled), but it represents a not insignificant UI addition to Chrome for Android’s layout. (The last one was the Material You revamp where functionality was unchanged.) Google must think this button is a big enough improvement for users to roll it out.
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