Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 28th Jun 2016 21:53 UTC

Speaking of software sucks, take a look at this screenshot of Chrome for Android. Do you notice something out of the ordinary? While you look, let me give you a little history.

Way back when Android Lollipop was released, Google introduced a feature called "merge tabs and apps" and enabled it by default for all Lollipop users. Basically, what it did was turn individual Chrome tabs into application windows in Android's application switcher. If you have an understanding of how Android works, this makes perfect sense; this turns tabs into full citizens of the Android application and intents workflow.

Starting with - I think? - Android Marshmallow, Google turned the feature off, but kept it as an option in Google Chrome, so that those of us that liked it could turn it back on. Obviously, this was the first thing I always turned on when setting up any new Android device; it just makes sense from an Android perspective. It smooths out the workflow, and makes sure that tab management becomes a thing of the past; they are discarded just like other Android applications.

Sadly, starting with Chrome 51, released a few weeks ago, the Android or Chrome or whatever team decided to remove the option altogether. The release notes stated:

When Android Lollipop was released last year, we moved Chrome tabs to live alongside apps in Android’s Overview app switcher. Our goal was to make it easier for you to switch between your open apps and websites. However, we heard from many of you that you could not find the tabs you created. This was especially difficult on phones that do not have a dedicated Overview button. While considering how to make Chrome work better for everyone, we brought the tab switcher back into Chrome so you can find your Chrome tabs in a single place. Look for a new way to manage your open tabs in coming releases.

This single change has thoroughly ruined the way I use my phone. I now have upwards of 60 - and growing - "open" tabs, because the Chrome team wants me to manually keep track of and close every individual tab that gets opened while using Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and other applications. I now have to keep track of not only running applications in the switcher, but also open tabs in the tab switcher, the latter of which can only be opened with a button in Chrome all the way at the top of my ginormous Nexus 6P display. The tab switcher itself, meanwhile, is a finicky clusterfuck of imprecise swipes and physics nonsense, making it all incredibly frustrating to use.

Update: this paragraph was added later as clarification. In addition, if you tapped on a link in, say, Fenix (Twitter) and read the website in the tab and then pressed back, said tab was automatically closed. This automatic closing of tabs with the back button does not happen with the inferior new method, hence the asinine clutter build-up.

Trying to switch to a specific tab I may have opened earlier in the day is an exercise in frustration now, since instead of just opening the application switcher and finding it a few swipes up (I don't use many applications), I now have to first find Chrome or launch it from my homescreen, find the tab switcher button all the way at the top, count to ten as I try to use the asinine tab switcher, and then hope I can find it somewhere among the more than 60 - and growing - "open" tabs and UI input lag caused by having to render all these tabs in that weird 3D space.

As someone who keeps track of world news, things like UEFA Euro 2016, technology news, and so on, all throughout the day, I end up with countless interesting tabs that get opened on Twitter, other social media, instant messenger, and so on. The Chrome team has actively decided to break my workflow, and there's no way for me to get it back - probably just because instead of looking at the how or why, they just looked at their precious, precious user data, and called it a day.

Looking to the future, with (freeform) windowing coming to Android, the change makes even less sense. Having tabs as part of the regular application switcher surely makes sense from a multitasking and multiwindow perspective, automatically giving Android users the ability to have multiple tabs side-by-side, in a way that is consistent with using other applications side-by-side. How are they going to implement this now? Will Android users have to deal with multiple Chrome windows, each with their own tab switcher? Where do tabs of closed windows go? What madness is this?

I find solace in that I'm not alone. Countless friends have expressed their hatred for the removal of merge tabs and apps (I've seen some of my programmer friends with well north of 100 "open" tabs), and the Chrome for Android reviews in the Play Store are riddled with angry one-star reviews. Google's forums, too, are filled with angry users. I'm hoping the angry comments and one-star reviews will make the Chrome team reconsider and bring back the option to merge tabs and apps, the Only True Android Way™ to manage tabs.

I'm sure tons of people here will consider this whining, but imagine if you're a programmer, and someone randomly took away your ability to insert tabs, forcing you to use spaces instead (or vice versa). That twitch you feel? That's us right now, every time we use Android.

For the first time in my life, I actually rated an application on an application store. Guess how many "stars" (why is it always stars?) I gave to Chrome for Android.

Permalink for comment 631075
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
RE[5]: Seriously?
by ahferroin7 on Wed 29th Jun 2016 12:47 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Seriously?"
Member since:

You need to repeat it until you realise that couldn't give a rat's butt if you have "60 open tabs" or "60 open applications" or "30 tabs and 30 applications" or anything else. It's the fact that you've got 60 websites (in tabs or in applications) that I find repulsively retarded, not whether they're tabs or applications.

If you would actually read, you'd see that you both agree about this. It's not intentional, it's a result of a regression in how Chrome on Android handles tabs. Prior to this change, the phone itself handled cleanup of old tabs, and therefore he didn't have to worry about it, now he has to do so manually, and he has not yet gotten used to the new workflow that's necessary to do this.

Yes. How else can the OS know if you have or haven't finished using the application?

You rather obviously have a very limited knowledge of how the OS works. Android tracks what you've used recently if you haven't used something recently and need more memory, it copies the application state out to persistent storage and unloads most of it from RAM, and then reloads it when you try to access that app. It doesn't need to care if your done with the app or not, because that app then won't have almost any impact on the system.

Yes. Why would I want crap I'm not using cluttering up my screen (or list of apps, or browser tabs)?

And this is not a typical behavior for an average Android or iPhone user. Many people I know don't even go to the app switcher to switch, they go to the home screen and tap the app icon itself (I also know a lot of people who used to use iPhones though).

Um, what?

Because smartphones are too weak (and their batteries too small) to handle true multi-tasking, they had to implement silly work-arounds (e.g. "save state" and shut the app down, and restart it using the previously saved state if/when you switch back to it later); and you think having to manage "open but not actually running apps" (instead of having to manage "actually running apps") is some sort of miraculous bonus?

Persistent state setups like this have been around for years. It's not some new 'smartphone thing', the only difference here is that Android does it transparently so you don't have to worry about it. This isn't just some hack to deal with low processing power (quite a few flagship phones can actually outperform equivalently priced desktops and laptops on almost every level except graphics), it's also a feature that a significant majority of users actually want.

I have no idea how this gibberish is supposed to relate to the paragraph it's replying to, or the topic being discussed in general.

There's this thing called an analogy. This one is admittedly somewhat hyperbolic in nature, but it's otherwise a good one. The point is that you expect any numbeer of things in the world to manage themselves automatically, why shouldn't your phone do so as well?

If you don't clean up after yourself (whether that is closing "actually running apps", or closing "open but not actually running apps", or closing tabs, or doing dishes, or tidying up your bedroom) then you've chosen to live with clutter and have no right to blame others for the clutter you're directly responsible for causing.

You obviously don't get this. The logic here in wanting a feature like this is exactly the same as the logic behind the Roomba, robotic lawnmowers, self-cleaning ovens, and any number of other similar things. It's the same logic behind people hiring others to clean their house for them. It's also the same as the logic behind having automatic memory management in programming languages. Humans, whether they realize it or not, have a natural tendency to prefer things that simplify their lives and improve upon the amount of free time they have.

Reply Parent Score: 3