Disable Google’s idiotic Tab Grid Layout and Tab Groups in Chrome on Android

How to downgrade Chrome on Android so you can disable the Tab Grid View / Tab Groups.

UPDATE: You need to also disable the auto-update in the play store – it updated on my overnight…

Google added a new tab view to Chrome for Android, and they made it impossible to disable with the stable release of version 91. The feature makes finding a tab among other tabs practically impossible in some cases – much much slower that the long-standing carousel view. I may update this post with images and a video, but I wanted to get this solution out ASAP.
Reddit is full of angry posts. The internet is full of angry posts. There used to be a workaround, but as of version 91, the flags are ignored. There are 3 petitions on change.org. The Chromium “feature request” to make it optional is in the top 5. I cannot stress enough how terrible this change is for most everyone – for me it makes Chrome unusable. A stunning example of form over function, and blatant dictatorial, prescriptive user-abuse on the part of Google. The best thing we can do right now is sign the petitions, spread the word publicly, and “star” the bugs.
This page has been keeping tabs on the issue and workarounds:
https://piunikaweb.com/2021/06/14/want-to-disable-tab-groups-grid-view-in-chrome-on-android-heres-how-to-do-so/

Overview

Chrome comes pre-installed on all but the oldest versions of Android, but it is then updated through the Google Play Store. We first must uninstall the updates to return Chrome to the stock version. You could just stay there, but there could be safety issues / improvements you would miss out on. So we are going to install the last version of Chrome that honored the flags to disable the grid layout – version 90.0.4430.210. Disable the auto-update for this app in the play store. We will then disable some flags and poof. Chrome won’t self-update, your settings will stick and you have taken one small step to fight corporate tyranny.

Procedure

Open the App info for for Chrome and uninstall if possible. Otherwise uninstall updates (may be in the … menu on upper right).

Next, you need to get the APK for the last decent version – Chrome 90.0.4430.210. It seems apkmirror.com is your best bet to actually get this to work.

https://www.apkmirror.com/apk/google-inc/chrome/chrome-90-0-4430-210-release
If the link is broken, try searching. Chrome isn’t a simple, single APK, and APKMirror features dependencies and bundles along with an installer APP.

look at the available downloads – find the highest android version that applies to your device. (for example, if you have android 6, the Android 5+ would apply to you. For 10 or 11, the 10+)
Within the appropriate android version, select the platform that applies to you (most likely one of the ARM variants. If you don’t know if you are ARM 7 or ARM 8, 32 or 64-bit there are apps / tools to find out)
Click on the link “90.0.4430.210” (not the download link). In some cases there will be two with the same title. Look at the green icon below – for me there is a 30s and a 17s variant. The 30s variant supports more languages. I stuck with the smaller one.

The details page may contain the warning “This APK requires a library: Trichrome Library 90.0.4430.210 …”

ONLY IF IT SAYS YOU NEED THE LIBRARY

The link will take you to the correct library variant. Download the apk being careful of the many ads. The link says “DOWNLOAD APK” and the text “Verified safe to install…” should be right above it.

This is a normal APK – if you haven’t already you need to enable installing APKs. The process is different for different versions of Android – search the interwebs to find out how.

Install it using a file explorer or even from the browser download link.

Now browse back to the main Chrome APK page on APKPure.com.

AFTER THE LIBRARY IS INSTALLED, OR IF NOT REQUIRED:

Download the .apkm bundle being careful of the many ads. The link says “DOWNLOAD APK” and the text “Verified safe to install…” should be right above it.

On the download page scroll down a bit. For bundles you will need to install the “APKMirror Installer” app from the Play Store – I followed the link. You may be able to search for it as well – it is beta as of this writing. (I would suggest removing it after you are done. It’s heavily ad laden and I can’t say I have complete trust….)

Run the APKMirror Installer app. Tap “Browse files” and select the .apkm file. Click “Install Package” at the bottom. Accept prompts, give permissions. You may have to restart the app after giving permissions. WATCH OUT FOR SNEAKY ADS, or you can pay to get rid of them. Seems to me APKMirror deserves the support.
Once completed, your Chrome is ready and willing to honor your wishes again.

Next go into the play store and view your installed apps. Scroll down to “Google Chrome” and tap it (not the open button). There is a menu in the upper-right that will allow you to disable updates. Hopefully…

Now Open Chrome
Browse to “chrome:\\flags”

Change the following flags to “Disabled”, accepting any relaunch prompts (this may not be necessary – you may be able to do them all at once then force kill it a couple times)
* Tab Grid Layout
* Tab Groups
* Tab Groups Continuation
* Tab Groups UI Improvements
* Enable Tab-to-GTS Animation

Viola! And since you installed from an APK, no auto updates will be pushed!

I grabbed a copy of all the variants and library variants as well as the installer apk – just in case Google or APKMirror attempt something nefarious… I need to fix the file names and I will mirror as time permits.

Possibly as more of us do this, Google will at least notice the preponderance of “old” versions.

Take Action:

Sign the following Change.org petitions

https://www.change.org/p/google-inc-chrome-tabs

https://www.change.org/p/united-nations-make-google-chrome-mobile-tab-groups-illegal-under-international-law

https://www.change.org/p/google-remove-group-tabs-from-google-chrome

Head over to the Chromium Bug Tracker (requires a Google account and a quick registration. Click the star to “upvote” the issue.

https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=1214806
https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=1219704
https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=1219116
https://bugs.chromium.org/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=1202514

And here is a Google Chrome Community post

https://support.google.com/chrome/thread/112382596/group-tab?hl=en

 

Background notes:

Because the issue originates in Chromium – the Open Source basis behind Chrome, Microsoft Edge and many other browsers, it is becoming pervasive. Switching to Firefox is the obvious solution, but Google recently blocked 3rd party access to the Google account-based features – autofill, passwords, payment info, account sync… In so doing, they have monopolized the Google account. Switching to any other browser breaks integrations with Android’s autofill. Any assault on free and open interoperability is a corporate evil, and a danger to innovation and free society. Unfortunately for Google, reverse-engineering for the purpose of interoperability is protected under the DMCA. One way or another, we will get this abomination of a “feature” made optional.

Main references:

[Update: Disabled] How to turn off Google Chrome for Android’s grid view for tabs

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Chrome_version_history

[help] i can’t turn off the tab grid layout from chrome

 

 

1 thought on “Disable Google’s idiotic Tab Grid Layout and Tab Groups in Chrome on Android”

  1. Annica Andersson

    Doesn´t work for me… Starting to install the files but then APKmirror installer closes itself and I’m back at beginnig asking if I would like to install.. Any ideas how to fix it?

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