Enabling Chrome to Mobile for your iPhone and iPad

For those who have installed the new Chrome app on your iDevices, you now have access to one of the features I really loved when I had an Android phone: Chrome to Mobile. Of course, before Google made Chrome available to users in the iOS universe, the feature was called Chrome to Phone, as was the extension that needed to be installed in your desktop Chrome browser.

If you’ve been clicking the Chrome to Phone button and wondering why your Web pages aren’t popping up on your iPhone or iPad, I’ll save you a little bit of trouble: uninstall the Chrome to Phone extension.

Google decided to (wisely) change the way the extension works and, in the process, also renamed it; a nod to the fact that it also works with devices that aren’t phones. It seems they didn’t really make a point to tell anyone, though. So you’ll have to download the new extension.

Click here to visit the Chrome app store and install the new Chrome to Mobile extension.

After you install the new extension and sync it up with your Google account, you’re pretty much set. If you haven’t already, you’ll need to sign into mobile Chrome using your Google account, and the Chrome to Mobile feature will be enabled automatically. Now, when you visit a site on your desktop and you want to send it to your iPhone or iPad, you can click the tiny mobile phone icon on the right side of Chrome’s address/search box. You’ll be asked which device you’d like to send the page to, and then it’ll be zapped over instantly. See my demo video below for an example.

Play Play

I’m still trying to understand the rationale behind Google’s rebranding of the Android Market. Not that the original name was going to win any awards, but you at least had an idea of what to expect in the context of a smartphone or tablet. Market: probably a place you buy things. Apps for sure, but maybe some music and videos, too.

Google Play sounds like Android’s Xbox Live. Play is also the name of a Google Reader feature that lets you view feed items as a slideshow. It’s a strange name for a store that sells things that you don’t play. Yes, you can play music. You can play games. You can play movies. But can you play books? What about non-game apps? You don’t play those.

You also have to wonder how wise it is to change the name of a smartphone store that has the largest installed base out of any other platform. If Google wanted to move it away from being solely Android, they could have just removed “Android” from the name, added “Google” and called it a day. Google Market sounds fine to me. It’s pretty jarring to look down at my phone and see “Play Store” where “Market” used to be.

In addition to the entire store being renamed, a few related apps were renamed, also.

“Music” was renamed to “Play Music,” so now everyone knows what to do with their MP3s.

“Books” was renamed to “Play Books,” which is confusing, and immediately reminds me of RIM’s failure of a tablet.

I assume the “Play” store is going to stretch across platforms and devices, and it was necessary to remove “Android.” But “Play” rubs me the wrong way. It’s another decision in the Larry Page era that I don’t like. It’s unimaginative, but that seems to be the trend lately.

Google+ and the New Google

When I think back to my Internet days B.G. (before Google), I struggle to remember which search engine I used. I assume Yahoo!, though I vaguely remember typing in names like “AskJeeves” and “AltaVista.” Before Google, finding what you needed wasn’t that easy. Google changed the game, and it became a fixture in our culture. Hell, it’s a verb. “Google it.”

Google Search was worlds better than anything out. They didn’t have to force me into using it. I typed “google.com” into my address bar willingly. When Gmail launched and a kind soul gave me a beta invite, I also made that my main email address. Willingly. No gun to my head. Gmail was a vastly superior product to Yahoo! Mail, or Hotmail, or anything else that was currently available. Google won me by being better.

I can tell this same story over and over for products like Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Reader, and so on. When Calendar launched, I didn’t touch another calendar app again. When Docs launched, I washed my hands of Microsoft Office. When Reader launched, I read more and I shared more, because it no longer felt like work.

I use a lot of Google products, and most of them are best in class. For the products I love, I never felt for a second like I was being herded into using them against my will. It never felt like a hard sell. Google, in the past, has been really good about that.

Except with social.

Buzz kicked it off. One day, Google decided to add a Twitter competitor to everyone’s Gmail inbox. Terrible idea. People were angry, and rightfully so. No one signed up for Gmail so that they could join another social network, yet Google felt it was a necessary move. Buzz pissed a lot of people off and never caught on. It was later killed off.

You’re seeing the same thing now with Google+. Google is trying to reinvent itself (a “New Google,” kind of like “New Coke”), and is again trying to herd its existing user base into a new service that they don’t really want. It’s trying too hard. Google+ is, essentially, the guy at the bar who keeps hitting on a woman, missing all of the obvious signs that she’s not interested.

Google+: “Hi there. I see that you’re a fan of Guinness. May I sit down?”

Woman: “Sorry, I just want to drink by myself if you don’t mind.”

Google+: “Haha, that’s cute. But seriously, let’s talk a little bit. My name’s Google+. I help you share things with people, but I’m not a social network.”

Woman: “Cool.”

Google+: “So… what’s your name? What do you do? Who are you friends with?”

Woman: *leaves*

Worse yet, Google is gimping its inventive spirit in order to focus on things that promote Google+. It killed off Google Labs. It took the Share feature out of Google Reader, opting instead for a “+1” button. Former Google employee James Whittaker quit the company because he longed for the imaginative Google of old, instead of the Google+ focused corporation (“New Google”) that exists today. It feels like Google has replaced innovation with desperation, and as a Google fanboy, it is painful to watch. It’s like I don’t even know Google anymore.

It will be an interesting year, or two years, or three years. I personally think Google+ will be killed off within that period of time, and it will be devastating to the company because of the importance Google itself placed on the initiative. Anything less than mass adoption constitutes failure, and Google seems determined to get there by force.

Good luck with that.

Google+’s Minus

With a change to the new user registration flow, Google+ now has a more prominent place in the Googleverse. Now, instead of creating a Google+ account after you’re a registered Google account user, profile creation happens during the regular Google account setup process. It’s kind of a big deal.

You have to figure that the likelihood of a user poking around G+ rises significantly when they’re forced into signing up, rather than being given the option after the fact. The number of G+ accounts will go up as Google registers more new users. Add this to the fact that Google+ now has a very visible role in Google’s search results, and you get the sense that Google is going to do everything they can to make G+ succeed.

The problem is, they don’t seem to be putting a lot of emphasis on creating active users. They’re not doing their best to make the Google+ service addictive. One thing they should be putting a lot of focus on is mobile.

With the launch of the Galaxy Nexus smartphone, certain Google+ features, such as Circles and Hangouts, are being advertised as phone features (finally, an Android partner is learning how to sell features instead of specs!).

Brilliant.

For its own version of the Android OS, Google is in a unique position to include as much or as little of Google+ as it wants. Google needs to bake G+ into every nook and cranny of Android, and have Android serve as G+’s Trojan Horse. If mobile users get hooked on some of the features, Google might be able to coax them over to the desktop version of G+, where those features already exist. But mobile is where I think Google can really plant the seed of addiction.

The Galaxy Nexus commercial was good, and it was a step in the right direction. But Google and the manufacturers using Android need to continue down that path of thinking and keep pushing Google+’s best parts as Android phone features. Get users doing Hangouts, get them sorting contacts into Circles, get them talking over Messenger, and then do a better job at putting those features in front of them on the bigger screen.

Information Overload

Back before its social subscription features were stripped away, I was a big Google Reader fan. I had hundreds of subscriptions of my own, but the most important reading was done in the “People You Follow” section. I trusted content curation to a few, knowing that I’d get to read the top items from the day, even if I didn’t get through my own subscriptions. This worked wonderfully for a while, but then it was gone.

I’ve been struggling to deal ever since.

The beauty about following people in Reader was the fact that nothing but news and blog articles made it into that stream. You can do something similar by creating Google and Facebook lists, but you’re not going to get straight content. Other things will enter the mix — status updates, photos, etc. — that add noise. It’s not the fault of the social networks, as they were built for sharing lots of different things. But what replaces Reader? What setup gives you the highest amount of awesome content shares with the lowest amount of other stuff?

Please, help me!

Where Google Goofed

Google officially pulled back the curtain on Google+ today and opted for a slow, controlled roll-out instead of opening the floodgates.

And therein lies the goof.

Facebook is the behemoth in the social networking world right now, boasting over 500 million active users–all of whom have invested heavily in the service. All their friends are there as well as photos, videos, notes and other content. They play games there. They organize events there. They interact on Pages and in Groups with others who share their interests. Regardless of what pundits may want to believe, people aren’t going to just drop Facebook on a dime and flock to Google+.

One reason is that they can’t, because of the whole slow roll-out. The other is that the masses just won’t be there to make the site sticky when they do arrive.

Those who do have access to the service are lamenting the fact that they have access to Google+’s cool new features and no one to use them with. That curiosity will wane and those users will end up right back where they started–on Facebook, where everyone else is. In time, a new wave of Google+ users will be invited into the kingdom only to find their friends have abandoned it.

This isn’t like Gmail, which went through the slow roll-out phase. Gmail had no social aspect. Users replaced their old email provider with Google’s new service and had no idea whether one person was using it or millions were using it. Google also had novelty on their side, and it hadn’t failed at email multiple times before like it has with social.

If Google expects to have a chance at dethroning Facebook, they need to get Google+ ready for prime-time and get as many people using it as possible. ASAP.

I’d own a Kindle today if…

…it had Google Reader.  Why not just a feed reader?  I’ll explain.

If I had to estimate, I’d say that about two-thirds of the reading I do takes place inside Google Reader.  And not just my own subscriptions, but also the content shared by others.  I get a lot of value from those shared posts because, let’s face it – I don’t have time to sift through thousands of blog posts a day.  This is why a plain feed reader just wouldn’t do.  Sure, I’d be able to subscribe to and read blogs, but I’d be missing all the shared content and the sense of community I get inside Google Reader.

The Kindle isn’t built for that, at least not yet.  Is it great with books?  Absolutely.  But the blog reading situation needs to be vastly improved for me to even consider buying one and, unless that happens before April 3, I’ll be purchasing a different product instead.

If only Google Voice had MMS…

There is one thing and one thing only that is keeping me from totally moving over to Google Voice.

The lack of MMS support.

I have this fancy iPhone thingamabob and I had to wait a long time to send and receive multimedia messages on it.  Do you really think I’m going to give that up now?

I’d be okay with giving everyone a new phone number.  I’d even be okay with having to use GV Mobile to place all my calls.  But I *will not* let picture and video messages intended for me be sent off into some black hole in space (seriously, what does Google do with those?).  The fact that it doesn’t even send you a warning is unforgivable.  I mean, even AT&T did that.  If you’re doing something worse than AT&T, you’re in a bad place.

Anyone agree?

Some quick thoughts on Google Reader

I have to say that I’m really liking the new features Google has tossed into Reader.  It’s always been a great RSS reader in my mind but the social features have added a whole new dimension.  On top of sharing (which we’ve had for awhile), we can now follow other users, like items and comment in a way similar to how we’ve done on the lifestream service I will not mention.  It seems like Google is trying to fill a void that hasn’t quite opened yet but could sometime in the future.  Kudos to them.

A few gripes though.  Why is the following/commenting system so borked?  If someone is following me, I want them to be able to comment on my stuff.  End of story.  If we’re following each other then I’d really expect them to be able to comment on my stuff.  But they can’t.  I have to put them into a group in order for them to comment and vice versa.  That just seems odd to me.

Another thing – refresh rate.  Can we get a faster refresh time?  Or how about real-time?  I’ve been spoiled, Google.  I’m sorry.

One more thing – notifications.  I would love to be notified somehow if someone has commented or liked an item I’ve shared.  There’s no easy way to figure this out at the moment – you just scroll, click and pray.  FriendFeed (oops, I mentioned them) puts your liked/commented-on items at the top of your feed.  Facebook pops up a little red alert at the bottom of the screen when someone interacts with your content.  Can we have this Google?  Please?

My wish list aside, I’m liking the attention that Reader is getting lately and plan to start spending a lot more time in it.  I don’t see it as just a feed reader anymore but as social discovery tool.  This was a major draw for FriendFeed and I’m glad that another option is shaping up.

Want to follow me in Google Reader?  Please do.  http://www.google.com/reader/shared/shawnfarner