From today, iOS developers are able to have a small taste of Android Intents, as Google has announced its OpenInChromeController class.

Fundamentally, the class does nothing exceptional that iOS devs would not have done before; it searches the device to see whether Chrome is installed, and, if it is, it will pass the handling of the URL to Chrome.

What is new is the way that Chrome handles being passed this URL with the addition of a back button that notifies the user that they will be passed back to another application.

(Image: Google)

It’s a decent piece of design by Google.

As someone who is primarily an Android user, there is one stand-out gripe with iOS that appears whenever I return to an Apple device: the lack of support for a default browser.

If you love Safari, then the immutable selection by Apple to make the browser solely responsible for handling URLs is one of those “it just works” moments. But if you’ve moved beyond using Apple’s in-house apps, then you’re in for a world of pain that is presumably punishment for not doing it the Apple way.

The results of this core design decision by Apple are strewn throughout the app ecosystem. Why should my Twitter client need to handle URL loading in a web view? Surely that activity would be better handled from a dedicated browser app, rather than a wrapped browser-like widget. Typically, there is no support for browser-like activities, such as bookmarking, syncing, or searching for a word/phrase in these web views, either.

Each time I use an iPhone, these thoughts return, and it makes me appreciate Android’s Intent system all the more. It’s one of the few unique things that Android users can genuinely boast to users of other mobile operating systems.

If only Google would learn from this, and provide the same sort of “you are about to return to another app” notification on Android. Imagine being able to avoid getting lost in the Android back button maze that can occur when you untombstone an app.

Google has already taken it a step further this week by providing the ability to launch Google Maps, Chrome, and YouTube from its iOS Gmail app.

It is Intents of a kind — the kind that keeps you locked into Google’s ecosystem on iOS.

As someone who has by and large replaced Apple’s default apps with their Google equivalents, it’ll have to do for now.