Apple’s unwillingness to support Flash on the iPhone was cemented this past April when Steve Jobs penned a letter outlining all the reasons why Apple is not too keen on the technology. At the same time, critics like to point to no Flash support as a key downside to iPhone ownership. All the while, the ongoing debate over the merits of mobile Flash seemed a bit premature given that no smartphone, up until the Droid 2 recently hit store shelves, came equipped with Flash 10.1 pre-installed. But now that the cat is out of the bag, Avram Piltch of Laptop Mag decided to put mobile flash through the ringer, and here’s what he discovered.
I’m the last person on earth who wanted to believe Steve Jobs when he told Walt Mossberg at D8 that “Flash has had its day.” I took it as nothing more than showmanship when Jobs shared his thoughts on Flash and wrote that “Flash is closed and proprietary, has major technical drawbacks, and doesn’t support touch based devices.” After spending time playing with Flash Player 10.1 on the new Droid 2, the first Android 2.2 phone to come with the player pre-installed, I’m sad to admit that Steve Jobs was right. Adobe’s offering seems like it’s too little, too late.
A driving force behind Apple’s products and software is consistency, and Flash for mobile seems to be anything but. Piltch notes that when Flash on the Droid 2 performs well, it’s great. But what good is that if Flash for mobile only performs great part of the time?
Specifically, some of the problems experienced by Piltch while trying to watch Flash video included long load times, sluggish performance, and videos that just plain refused to play.
“Wasn’t Flash 10.1 supposed to erase the boundaries between mobile and the desktop?”, Piltch laments.
But what about some of the other uses for Flash, you might be wondering. Well, Piltch explored that as well and was left feeling just as underwhelmed.
After my mixed experience with video, I was curious to try Flash-based games on our Android phones. When I tried going to famous Flash game sites like Newgrounds or Addicting Games, I found that, as Steve Jobs said, “Flash was designed for PC’s using mice, not for touch screens using fingers.” Many of the games I loaded were slow to start and slowed the system, making it difficult to scroll around the page or tap on links. But much worse was that, even when these titles loaded, there was no way to control most of the action. Most games required keyboard or mouse actions I simply could not perform on my phone, even with its QWERTY slider. One shooter wanted me to hit the CTRL key to fire; another asked for the left mouse button.
Again, it all goes back to consistency.
In the end, initial reviews of Flash on mobile have been markedly disappointing. While some may have hoped that a device like the Droid 2 would help move things into a more promising direction, that unfortunately doesn’t appear to be the case. Not only has Flash failed to live up to expectations when it comes to video playback and using apps, but it also drains battery life and tends to freeze up webpages a tad too often.
More importantly, Adobe needs to have a better answer to whether or not Flash is still relevant in a world where other technologies have rapidly started displacing it. Based on my early experience with Flash Player 10.1 for mobile, it could soon join the floppy drive in the tech graveyard, something else Steve Jobs helped kill.