I’m going to be honest here, I don’t use a web browser very often on Android. Most often I stick with specific applications. Now, I get that some of those applications are Single Page Web apps that are probably using bits of Chrome under the hood. But as far as using a full-fledged web browser, it’s only sporadic on my phone.

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Until probably a year ago, I didn’t mind using Chrome on Android. It was built in, offered seamless functionality and didn’t really cause any problems. But a year is a long time in tech terms, and a lot has happened in those months.

At some point in 2021, I switched my default Android browser to Firefox. After all, I was using the open-source browser on my desktop (which I spend most of my workday on), so it made perfect sense. I could keep my desktop and mobile web browser in sync and everything functions as I expect.

During my time with Firefox on Android, I haven’t had any issues. On the occasion that I needed a web browser, it functioned perfectly. And not using Chrome on Android was a no-brainer for me.

For others, this might be less of a no-brainer. After all, the majority of mobile users simply want everything to function as expected and don’t care to take extra steps to do something as simple as view a web page on a phone.

But it’s time.

It’s really time.

Actually, it’s past time.

I’m not going to bore you with statistics or tech-speak here, because I want you to understand (without having to turn to your technically inclined friends) why this is important.

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Chrome has a target on its back

Google Chrome has billions of users worldwide. According to Statcounter, Chrome has a 64.67% stranglehold over the global market share. The next browser is Safari with only 19.06%. That’s a massive gap.

What does this mean? Essentially, it places a target on the back of Chrome, and hackers everywhere understand if they want to catch users unaware, their best shot is via Chrome. Google knows this and regularly issues warnings to users to update their browsers asap. Some of those warnings are dire (or should be taken as such). And any user that doesn’t constantly check for Chrome updates is playing a dangerous game of chicken that they will eventually lose.

This is a game that will not end any time soon. Chrome has always been vulnerable. And beyond the usual vulnerabilities, back in March, it was discovered that Google collects more data than any other browser.

Consider this: Google is in the business of monetizing data. That’s Google’s bread and butter. It’s what’s made them the most widely used search engine on the planet. Every business wants to gain the Google edge, and users find the search accurate and easy. But when you couple Google’s need to collect data with its browser that collects more data and requires frequent updates to patch an ever-growing number of vulnerabilities, you have a recipe that is not only dangerous but an affront on privacy.

And that is why, months ago, I made the switch to Firefox as my default Android browser.

I’m not saying you should switch to Firefox (although it’s a solid choice), but you should move away from Chrome to another browser. Fortunately, Android has plenty of solid options, such as Opera, Vivaldi and Brave.

How to switch your default

Making the switch is quite simple. Open the Android Settings app and go to Apps | Default apps. In the resulting window (Figure A), tap Browser app.

Figure A

The Defaults apps window in Android 12.

In the next window (Figure B), tap the browser you’d like to use as your default, and you’re good to go.

Figure B

Changing your default browser from Chrome to any browser you have installed is simple.

At this point, any time you tap a link the newly set default browser will open, instead of Chrome.

Your next step would be to sign out of Chrome and turn off Sync. You can do this by doing the following:

  1. Open Chrome
  2. Tap the three vertical dots in the upper right corner
  3. Tap Settings
  4. Tap the email address associated with your account
  5. Tap Sign out and turn off sync (Figure C)

Figure C

Signing out of Chrome and disabling sync can help ensure Chrome doesn’t associate data with your account.

At this point, there is no simple way to remove Chrome from Android. That’s to be expected. But as long as you can avoid using Chrome as your default (and keep it signed out of your account), your data will be a bit safer.

Any step you can take to protect yourself on a mobile platform should be considered a step forward. Until Chrome no longer has a glaring target on its back and Google ends its practice of collecting more and more user data, I will always use a different browser on Android, and you should, too.

Image: rafapress/Shutterstock

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