Chrome Extensions are powerful tools that let you customize your browser experience to your liking. While these have historically only been available on the desktop, a recent update to the Kiwi Browser brings support for desktop extensions to Android.
What is Kiwi Browser?
Kiwi is an open-source browser for Android devices based on Chromium and the WebKit rendering engine. Since it uses the Chromium source, it has a very familiar look and feel, but it also packs its own features to make it unique and useful.
Right out of the box, it blocks intrusive ads by default, blocks pop-ups, and has protection against cryptojackers. It can also block site notifications, as well as block AMP pages for users who prefer to go directly to the site. Mostly, it’s a more privacy-focused version of Chrome with various speed improvements.
Since it’s just based on Chromium and not actually Chrome, however, you’ll lose out on things like account syncing between devices, which means you’ll have to manually bring your bookmarks and stuff like that to Kiwi if coming from Chrome.
All that aside, there’s one primary feature that’s relatively new to Kiwi that we’re going to focus on today: desktop extension support. We’re talking about all your favorite extensions from Chrome on the desktop, just on your phone. It’s pretty rad. Here’s how it works.
Let’s Talk About Chrome Extensions on Mobile
Before we get to the nitty-gritty, we should probably talk about why Google hasn’t brought Chrome extensions to Chrome on Android. To put it bluntly: because the experience basically sucks.
Chrome extensions are mostly (or entirely?) designed with the desktop in mind, so it’s no surprise that many of them don’t offer a lot of benefit on mobile. In fact, none of the extensions I use in Chrome desktop were worth a flip on mobile.
Your mileage will vary from extension to extension—some may work well, some may only partially function. Some may not work at all. The only way to really know is to test it out.
But you may be able to guess which extensions will work based off your experience with them; for example, the LastPass Chrome extension is great on Chrome desktop, but it doesn’t work at all on mobile. But other, more simplistic extensions, like OneTab, work okay. Like I said—you’ll need to experiment.
Now, all that said, Kiwi has still done something extraordinary here by enabling this feature, and it works about as well as it possibly can, given the state of Chrome extensions right now. The installation and removal of extensions (both of which we’ll cover below) are about as simple as they can be.
How to Use Chrome Desktop Extensions on Android
First things first, you’ll need to install Kiwi from the Play Store (if you haven’t already).
Once installed, fire it up. There’s no setup process here—you can jump straight into browsing. Feel free to poke around and get comfortable with Kiwi’s specific bells and whistles if you want, but it should feel pretty familiar out of the gate (for Chrome users, anyway).
If you already know what you want to install, jump over the Chrome Web Store to get started. Since the Web Store doesn’t have a mobile-friendly page, you’ll need to pinch and zoom your way around the page for the best experience. (That is unless you’re one of those massive-phoned people, in which case you may be able to fly around the Web Store with little-to-no zooming. Good for you.)
Once you’ve targeted an extension, it installs just like on the desktop: tap the “Add to Chrome” button.
Accept the permission, then give it a few seconds. Your extension will be ready to rock n roll.
It’s ready for set up and use (assuming it works correctly, of course). Go you.
How to Remove an Extension from Kiwi
If you realize an extension isn’t what you thought it would be (or just want to remove it), tap the menu button in the upper corner and then select “Extensions.”
From there, find the extension you want to remove and then tap the “Remove” button.
A confirmation dialog will appear, so accept that to finish removing the extension. Easy peasy.