Android Edge Canary - better, but ...

Regular Contributor

So, a couple of days ago an article in one of my feeds pointed me to the existence of the new Android Edge Canary, and I installed (or at first tried to, at least). Much better than standard Android Edge in various ways - Chromium 91 instead of 77 (!), ability to choose sites to pin to  new tab page, search on passwords, a full set of Edge://flags including - most importantly to me - #enable-force-dark. However I initially have 3 issues: one bug, but two design/feature-lack ones.

 

1 There's a big bug in the first run onboarding experience that actually stopped me even getting to the NTP for the first time for over a day. First install, at the start of the onboarding was a page asking me about theme. I clicked for Dark, and the app immediately crashed. Repeated attempts to restart just produced a dialogue telling me the app was repeatedly crashing. Same happened each time I tried an uninstall/reinstall to get back to it starting but with the start at the onboarding again. After the update the next day, I tried again and got the same, After another uninstall/reinstall I skipped changing the theme in the onboarding, which took me to the page to add and log in with my account - but on clicking to submit the password, it immediately crashed, and again would only give the 'Edge is constantly crashing' error dialogue on trying to restart. Again, repeatable. I finally uninstalled and reinstalled, got back to the start of the onboarding, and this time skipped both the theme choice and the adding account. Finally I actually got to the NTP and was able to use the browser, and was able to then change theme and add my account and log in from the Settings menu without incident. So, there appears to be an issue with the onboarding if the user chooses anything but skip. But as I'm now 'onboarded' I'm not likely to see if this has been fixed n later versions.

 

2 I've developed a lot of sensitivity to white/brightly light coloured backgrounds on websites, emails and pretty much everything. I couldn't even consider using Android Edge without an option to darken web pages. Android Edge Canary has at least provided access to the #enable-force-dark flag which I used to use on the odd occasion I use Android Chrome. However, there is an ease of use issue. Some websites work very badly with the auto-darkening, and one needs to turn it off just while on those sites. Going to Edge://flags to turn the darkening off, then re-starting, then after leaving the site having to go back to Edge://flags to turn the darkening back on again then re-starting again is simply too clumsy. Android Google Chrome on chromium 90 has another flag #darken-websites-checkbox-in-themes-setting, and it is much better and more sensible to have a toggle in settings rather than having to dive into flags with re-starts. This is now my minimum acceptable implementation for darkening websites. It's not the best, though. THAT is Android Firefox's ability to use the same Dark Reader extension as I have in desktop Firefox, Edge and Chrome. It is vastly superior due to the fact that one can, on a website where darkening is bad, make that website an exception in three taps so Dark Reader then automatically turns darkening off on that website in future visits. In fact this is such a usability boost I'm very unlikely to be persuaded to use a browser (desktop or phone) which doesn't have or can't have added such a feature.

 

3 I HATE bottom controls. I'm not an average user. I don't use phones one handed, always two. I find bottom controls clumsy and (due to disability) literally painful (or, as doing everything is painful, I should say MORE painful). I'd like to point out two things about Android Edge's rivals from which lessons may be taken. When the new Firefox Android browser became available as Firefox Preview back in 2019 I tried it, found it only had bottom controls, wrote a review in the Play store saying how I hate bottom controls and wouldn't be using it if that's how it remained and uninstalled it. Got a reply from the developer thanking me for trying it and hoping I might look again in awhile as they were planning lots of options. I can't have been the only one giving this feedback as less than 3 months later, December 2019, a Settings option appeared to have the controls at top or bottom, with the choice presented during the onboarding. So I re-installed it and haven't looked back using the Android Firefox browser, first the preview, then the nightly as my default browser ever since. I also noticed (and tried briefly) the flag that appeared in Android Google Chrome to have split controls - basically exactly what you have in Android Edge, normal and Canary, URL bar at the top, navigation and menus at the bottom. I found it hideous, but again I can't be the only one as after about a year Google removed that flag and just stuck with top controls. So Mozilla tried bottom controls, then added an option to switch to top, while Google tried an experiment with bottom controls but the gave up on it. Microsoft ... please think about this. Have the current bottom controls as an option, even the default option, by all means, but give a choice for top controls in Android Edge. Without that I for one will never use it as my phone browser; and the need for cooperating phone and desktop browsers means I would therefore never adopt the desktop one either, even if you fix the glaring issue you've created in that for me with the loss of the usable extended toolbar area.

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