With the upcoming iOS 5 launch expected sometime in early October, a few people may still be wondering how the long battle between Adobe and Apple will pan out, clinging onto the hope that Flash may appear.
I can tell you now that Flash will not appear in an official form on iOS 5 or any other iOS update. Despite Steve Jobs stepping down as CEO, it is clear that Apple find Flash to be buggy and unstable – they are pushing the modern HTML 5 technology. However, that doesn’t necessarily stop you from having access to flash yourself…
The simple fact is that unless you plan on Jailbreaking and using Frash you are limited to Flash enabled browsers. Read on to find out the best way to get Flash on your iPad!
To test Flash we used 3 methods; Video, Flash websites, and Flash Games in order to provide a solid view of general performance.
To test Flash websites we firstly used the fairly unintensive Monoface website which is always a good laugh. iSWiFTER’s performance on this was very good and worked almost as well as on a desktop browser – although at times it did lag slightly. To put the browsers fully to the test we also decided to use Get The Glass to see how they handled larger Flash sites. This is where iSWiFTER didn’t do so well (although this was expected); the video and audio both slowed down sligthly and the site was not really usable.
For Flash video we used this to test the performance. The audio quality seemed to be almost unfazed in the test we ran, but the video was quite jolty – not unwatchable, but certainly no where near the buttery playback of a desktop browser.
Our Flash game of choice was 8 Ball Pool and while iSWiFTER quickly loaded the game and managed to get the start, the game seemed unresponsive. Despite only needing to drag the cue to hit the balls, it just simply wouldn’t work.
Although 8 Ball Pool was the primary game we tested, we also tried a few other Flash games in each browser and found them all to respond poorly, even if they only required mouse input.
Overall, iSWiFTER is for the most part very capable, and provided you have a fast wireless connection, using Flash sites or the occasional video would be fine – still no replacement for the Safari browser, though.
Let me begin by saying that Cloud Browse should only ever be your last resort, open it only if you are dying to use Flash. The interface is horrible and very difficult to use.
For example, if you want to start typing in the URL bar you tap on the bar itself but then have to tap on the keyboard button in the top left to actually start typing, and nearly a third of the display is taken up by the URL and status bar at the top.
Overall it performed fairly well on the less intensive Monoface site with but a few stutters, but became much less responsive on the heavy Get The Glass site. The playback was pretty much unbearable, with embarrassingly juttery video and audio.
Unfortunately, once again Flash playback was terrible, the video would play at an awful framerate.
As you may have guessed, Cloud Browse also failed to do very well at 8 Ball Pool – the game was once again rendered unplayable.
Needless to say I would not recommend Cloud Browse. It just doesn’t live up to the streaming capabilities it claims to have, this browser performed poorly for me nearly everytime, with decent playback on a mere smattering of occasions.
The Photon browser is the one that probably looks most like the native Safari iPad browser, with the thin header at the top and a similar layout of tabs and functions. Interestingly, it lacks the fluidity that the native app has when you enter the Flash capable version – when you are in normal mode it’s very smooth.
The Photon browser showed the best performance in our tests on the Monoface website, despite taking half a second or so for the actual browser to recognise the touch input (this is because it needs to figure out if your input is going to be a gesture such as pinch to zoom, or if it is just a touch.
Once the touch was recognized, Flash worked almost instantly. Again, this browser was the strongest performer for the Get the Glass website with almost no lagging in audio and a reasonable frame rate.
The video playback was also very reasonable – a reduced frame rate like in the Get The Glass website, but nothing too bad for short videos. However, you wouldn’t want to be watching anything more than a few minutes long unless you have a very fast internet connection – it’s still not as fluid as you would like!
Unsurprisingly (by now) the browser failed to get any decent gameplay on Flash games.
Skyfire caused a bit of a stir when it first arrived, claiming to bring the much sought after Flash to the iPad, and to some extent it lived up to its hype. Skyfire is a good browser even when not using it for Flash, with deep social integration and, more importantly, the server side capability to convert Flash media into a format the iPad can understand.
The Monoface website test failed to work at all with Skyfire, as Skyfire only works by transforming Flash video into a version that the iPad can read and play back. Due to this limitation, Skyfire was only able to play the introduction video. The same was true with the Get The Glass test.
Video is Skyfire’s forté, and needless to say the video result was very good. The frame rate was very high and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between watching a Flash video in this or watching something like a YouTube video.
Once again we find that the Flash capabilites of Skyfire are solely for media and not Flash interaction such as games or websites so this was a no go.
Skyfire is a strong browser that I would consider to be the best replacement for Safari from this selection. However, if you are looking for a more inclusive Flash experience this might not be the best option.
Perhaps one of the biggest criticisms of the iPad when it first launched (apart from it being an oversized iPod touch) was its lack of capability to view 70% of the internet.
It’s safe to say that it wasn’t too much of a hindrance on sales, and to make the assumption that most people just don’t need Flash on the iPad – at least nowhere near as much as was expected. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t be allowed to access it.
All of the options described above have issues, each problematic in its own way. I can say that if you want to watch Flash videos then I would recommend Skyfire, which had a very high success rate, and if browsing Flash sites is what you need then the answer is Photon. At the moment that’s the best you are going to get, but fear not; in part due to Apple’s decision to abandon Flash the web is increasingly embracing the HTML 5 standard, and in the process becoming more and more iPad friendly.