Google's latest Chrome Custom Tabs feature might add Picture-in-Picture support

Google Chrome logo on a phone screen
(Image credit: Jay Bonggolto / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google is testing Chrome Custom Tabs that support Picture-in-Picture mode on Android. 
  • The feature is limited in Chrome 122 for Android, and enabling a flag might help the Picture-in-Picture option appear.
  • It's the latest test by Google related to Chrome Custom Tabs, which recently gained support for Chrome's Read Aloud tool.

Google has been beefing up Chrome Custom Tabs of late, and its latest effort might bring Picture-in-Picture mode to Custom Tabs. You might know the Picture-in-Picture feature from media apps like YouTube or streaming services, as it allows you to minimize content so that it remains visible while using your smartphone. Now, it looks like Google wants to give you the option of minimizing Chrome Custom Tabs.

Chrome Custom Tabs are what Google calls the mini web browsers that appear within other apps when you open a link. While some apps, like Instagram, have their own native in-app browser, others use Chrome Custom Tabs instead. There are some obvious benefits to this, as some data is shared between Chrome Custom Tabs and your standalone Chrome browser. 

As first discovered by 9to5Google, there's a new option in the Chrome Custom Tab toolbar. It's an arrow pointing downward, and it toggles Picture-in-Picture mode for the Chrome Custom Tab. If you click it, the Chrome Custom Tab can be minimized while you navigate other parts of your Android operating system. When you want to go back to the page loaded in your Chrome Custom Tab, simply click the fullscreen icon in the Picture-in-Picture window. 

The only real use case for this feature, as it currently works, is as a shortcut to get back into your Chrome Custom Tab. That's because the webpage isn't shrunk down to fit into the Picture-in-Picture window, it simply allows you to click back into the full-size site. In fact, the only information shown on the Picture-in-Picture window is the name of the webpage, site domain, and logo (if applicable). It doesn't work like something such as YouTube, which lets you watch and consume content while in Picture-in-Picture mode. 

That's not to say the feature is without utility. The best use case for Picture-in-Picture windows in Chrome Custom Tabs is probably for viewing sites within email clients. You might need to view something in a link sent to you by email and use its contents for another app. In this kind of situation, it may be easier to switch between your Chrome Custom Tab and another app using Picture-in-Picture mode. 

For now, it seems like Google is testing this feature with a limited number of users. While it's available on the public Chrome 122 app version, not all devices can see the new Picture-in-Picture options. We tried opening a few Chrome Custom Tabs to see if the Picture-in-Picture option would appear, with no luck. 

Picture-in-Picture mode would be the latest feature to hit Chrome Custom Tabs in recent months. Earlier this year, Google added a Read Aloud shortcut to Chrome Custom Tabs in Chrome Canary. 

Brady Snyder

Brady is a tech journalist covering news at Android Central. He has spent the last two years reporting and commenting on all things related to consumer technology for various publications. Brady graduated from St. John's University in 2023 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. When he isn't experimenting with the latest tech, you can find Brady running or watching sports.