Review: Skyfire browser; flash on your iOS device

Today was the release of the first browser that supports Adobe Flash on your iOS device. This mobile browser supports the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

UI

The user interface on Skyfire is very easy on the eyes, and gives the browser a very nice look and feel. Skyfire uses a lot of black and dark colours for the browser, which keep your focus on the actual content rather than the address and search bar.

Navigation

Browsing through webpages, searches or even adjust settings is very simple on this browser. It took me very little time to find all the settings I needed and make my way through pages. Comparing Skyfire to Opera and Safari, I have to say Skyfire is easier to use and looks better than both Opera and Safari.

There is one small complaint, and that is I wish the browsers toolbar at the bottom was customizable, as I'm used to using Safari on the iPhone, and having my bookmarks, add to bookmarks and multiple pages all mixed up makes it a little harder to get used to.

Features

Skyfire comes with a couple of new features that other browsers don't have. First is the search term. By clicking the little wavey icon on the bottom, you can search for terms, such as Neowin, which returns results for videos, trends, tweets and images. The 'all' tab takes the top search and includes it in an easy to browse view. However, not every search you perform requires a video, image or tweet, which makes this feature somewhat pointless for a lot of searches. Skyfire includes some nice features like the favicon, which actually makes the boring address bar a little more interesting.

Second new feature is the easy to toggle iPhone and desktop view. You can have your browser set on desktop view, tricking web pages into thinking your browsing on a desktop browser. This feature might be useful if some pages force you to visit the mobile site when you really need the desktop version.

        

Skyfire has a built-in view to clear history, cookies, cache and even logout of the Facebook view, something you would have to go through Settings on the iPhone for Safari.

If you've ever wondered what Safari is missing, it's default start pages. All desktop browsers have them, but why not mobile? Skyfire includes the option to set a custom URL as the default start page, blank or the Skyfire home page.

The search feature on Skyfire has some pre-set searches, one for Google web results, another for video and Wikipedia, where you can quickly and easily find pages on the site.

Skyfire comes with a quick Facebook view button, so you can open up Facebook over any page and see if there is anything new happening on your feed. The quick Facebook button opens up over your existing page and is the mobile version of the website you would normally have on http://touch.facebook.com.

Video Streaming

This is the feature why everyone is downloading Skyfire, to browse Adobe Flash on your iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. So how exactly does it stack up? Well, Skyfire does a great job on the streaming video and bringing Flash to iOS, but it is something that should have been here in the first place.

          

  I couldn't get a very accurate reading on the converting and streaming video content, because the servers were flooded today, even forcing the developer to pull the app off the App Store, because it was too popular. I'm sure over time the streaming will improve and get faster, but some short two minute videos took up to 30 seconds to load.

Skyfire does a great job on notifying you of the ready content on each page, as you'll notice in the video below. I did notice there was some loss of audio, but it also could be due to the video and the iPhone 4's speakers.

Final Thoughts

Skyfire is a great little browser, and comes with a load of features that almost makes it worth it, but I still feel the price is a little too much for a browser, after all, Safari and Opera are free. Flash should have been available on all iOS devices from the beginning, so trying to justify paying for Apple's shortcomings is a little hard.

I would recommend Skyfire to anyone who wants to ditch Safari or whom ever is looking to play Flash video on their device, but I must remind you that this does not play games or any non-video flash content.


Skyfire is available (when it comes back online) on iTunes and the App Store for $2.99.

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36 Comments

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I actually did get a copy of this just now and tested it out. Engadget is reporting that they are selling the app in bursts to keep their own bandwidth under control.

I tested out 2 flash based video sites, southparkstudios.com and Zero Punctuation's Yahtzee (Video Game reviewer). Southparkstudios.com worked fine (although I thought that the picture quality was sub-par when compared to the actual web site on my PC). Yahtzee didn't play at all.

PreKe said,
Isn't it a bit pathetic that they are charging, and they still can't keep their servers running smoothly?

Well, not as pathetic as Apple is for not trying to work harder with Adobe to get Flash on their iDevices.

Skyfire has setup a massive transcoding farm for their users. For their role in it, I don't think that $3 is an unfair price and am actually rather surprised that it isn't setup to be some sort of a subscription. They should inject adverts into the movies and offer the app for free... I think they will make more money this way and be able to support the project for longer... I'm worried that they are going to one day decide that they can't support their user base and then walk away from the project.

Shadrack said,
Well, not as pathetic as Apple is for not trying to work harder with Adobe to get Flash on their iDevices.

I think that was more Adobe's fault for never bothering to optimized Flash for mobile phones. And it's a crappy experience even on the newest Android phones.

Might have worked on the iPad, though.

Skyfire has setup a massive transcoding farm for their users. For their role in it, I don't think that $3 is an unfair price and am actually rather surprised that it isn't setup to be some sort of a subscription.

Hey, I'm not saying they are wrong to charge for it. I'm saying it's pathetic that they can't keep their servers running. It shows that there's something deeply rotten there somewhere. Their lies aren't exactly helping.

They should inject adverts into the movies and offer the app for free

So... They will get the revenue, but the site hosting the video won't?

I'm worried that they are going to one day decide that they can't support their user base and then walk away from the project.

They already did that. They basically pulled out of everywhere except North America and Western Europe.

I predict that the company will go bankrupt. They never had a working business model.

I'm betting their strategy all along was to waste VC dollars, and then sell the company and get rich.

I do understand that charging is a necessity. The developement cost is one thing, but they are the gateway for the content. They are providing the hardware and infrustructure and must keep up with the user base in order for the content to flow. Even with just compression, I'm surprised the Opera mini does not cost at least 99 cents since there is some hardware use to compress the requested page traphic through their servers. Maybe they are able to monetize the stats the collect through their servers...

The problem with Skyfire was summed up somewhere else:

Is Skyfire sustainable? A one off payment of $2.99 helps keep their servers going for a while. But after a years worth of transcoding/converting Flash content each user is surely going to have cost the co more than that in server/bandwidth costs

Also, they are liars and cheaters. I wouldn't trust them.

Seems like everyone forgot the iDevices have flash already via jailbreak...

Guess that just proves how useless it is...

(Android User)

You mean Frash which doesn't do video and basically only works for flash adverts. Really useful. I'm going to go JB my iPhone for all the flash advert goodness now!

Shadrack said,
You mean Frash which doesn't do video and basically only works for flash adverts. Really useful. I'm going to go JB my iPhone for all the flash advert goodness now!

He hasn't tried it.

NeoTrunks said,

He hasn't tried it.

You mean to say that people make comments based on no experience what-so-ever and basically pull things out of their ass?!?!??!?! *SHOCK* *HORROR*!!!

lol....

By the way, there is no iPad version of this app. Skyfire doesn't suggest this either, at least not on their site. And you don't want to load the iPhone version on the iPad. It looks horrid.

Its a shame that they are currently "sold out". They should consider injecting an advert at the beginning of the video (i mean, they do process the flash content on their servers and give you an HTML5 friendly version, right?). Then give the app for free. I bet they could make a lot more money off adverts in the long run.

Shadrack said,
Its a shame that they are currently "sold out". They should consider injecting an advert at the beginning of the video (i mean, they do process the flash content on their servers and give you an HTML5 friendly version, right?). Then give the app for free. I bet they could make a lot more money off adverts in the long run.

I thought they do this? Certainly I got an ad before a video I watched from the BBC website (which usually doesn't have ads).

Shadrack said,
i mean, they do process the flash content on their servers and give you an HTML5 friendly version, right?

No. It's got nothing to do with HTML5.

WelshBluebird said,

I thought they do this? Certainly I got an ad before a video I watched from the BBC website (which usually doesn't have ads).

I have installed it and tried it with Southpark studios and received no adverts which is odd because the site itself has adverts.

No. It's got nothing to do with HTML5.

I meant H.264 but said "HTML5 friendly" which would encompass H.264 (I think...).

Shadrack said,
I meant H.264 but said "HTML5 friendly" which would encompass H.264 (I think...).

Not really. What Skyfire is doing has got nothing to do with HTML5.

I don't fault you for falling for their constant lies, though. They are lying through their teeth to get people talking about them. "Convert Flash to HTML5" is just the latest in a long series of lies and talking points to grab attention.

I don't have any apple products so this doesn't affect me much. But it seems pretty cool. Glad that someone could get this working in case I would ever get one.

But more importantly... Congrats on the baby

"If you've ever wondered what Safari is missing, it's default start pages. All desktop browsers have them, but why not mobile? Skyfire includes the option to set a custom URL as the default start page, blank or the Skyfire home page."
I don't about you, but i would never see that start page in safari anyway just like i never see it in firefox, both browsers save my session and my tabs, only time it will load with the homepage is after a new install

"Flash should have been available on all iOS devices from the beginning, so trying to justify paying for Apple's shortcomings is a little hard."
only if it worked like say with flashblock or frash, so that i have to click the flash object to activate it, i know what flash does with the cpu of a desktop computer i rather not have it do the same to my phone... also, I think it was AnandTech, their review of the new macbook air says quite a lot about flash, with flash installed the get 20% less battery during their surfing test...

I think the price is justified. I won't download it. Ever since I've had an iPhone (which was launch day for the iPhone 3G), I've never run into a website where I needed Flash. My mobile browsing patterns are just completely different from my desktop browsing patterns. And that was the case even before my first iPhone. But back to my point. The developers of Skyfire have to get paid. Servers and bandwidth must be paid for. Its not like Apple developed this app as a workaround from putting Flash on iOS devices. So Skyfire is filling a void for some. And if they absolutely have to have it, they will download it. But since most videos on the web are now in a iOS compatible format, most people won't need this. I suspect most people who have downloaded it, are just giving it a try or downloading it just to say they have it. Remember, us Apple consumers have more money than sense.

asdavis10 said,
I think the price is justified. I won't download it. Ever since I've had an iPhone (which was launch day for the iPhone 3G), I've never run into a website where I needed Flash. My mobile browsing patterns are just completely different from my desktop browsing patterns. And that was the case even before my first iPhone. But back to my point. The developers of Skyfire have to get paid. Servers and bandwidth must be paid for. Its not like Apple developed this app as a workaround from putting Flash on iOS devices. So Skyfire is filling a void for some. And if they absolutely have to have it, they will download it. But since most videos on the web are now in a iOS compatible format, most people won't need this. I suspect most people who have downloaded it, are just giving it a try or downloading it just to say they have it. Remember, us Apple consumers have more money than sense.

not to mention the big bunch of people downloading it thinking they will be able to get all flash content like games that wouldn't work without mouse and keyboard anyway...

Why is it you didn't review the main functionality? This thing is about Flash, and there is only one sentence in the whole review regarding that topic...

Islander said,
Why is it you didn't review the main functionality? This thing is about Flash, and there is only one sentence in the whole review regarding that topic...

I was under the impression it's a full featured mobile browser that also happens to allow server side flash encoding to the iPhone

Good review and overview if you ask me

chrispinto said,
I was under the impression it's a full featured mobile browser that also happens to allow server side flash encoding to the iPhone

Actually, it's just a bloated skin on top of Safari. Safari is miles better.

lflashl said,
not in the NZ store, maybe you should note this!

It's not available in any story at the moment. The app got such high demand that they pulled it.

It should be available in all stores in the next couple of days.

This is noted under the video.

TrOjAn. said,

weird.. i just got it 5 minutes ago ..


His comment was 7 hours ago yours was 1 hour ago do the math.

FarCry3r said,

Lol... Of all images, that one catches ur attention?

Or the fact that you just don't know why I commented with Bieber fever. ^_^

Only 30 seconds? That's not SOoooooOOoo bad. Youtube and 720p content can sometimes be even longer than that to load.

warwagon said,
Only 30 seconds? That's not SOoooooOOoo bad. Youtube and 720p content can sometimes be even longer than that to load.

I noramlly load a 2 min and a half video in a minute or minute and a half, at Internet's top speed.