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11/3/2010
03:00 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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Apple Approves Skyfire Browser With Flash For iPhone

Just over two months since Skyfire submitted its mobile browser to Apple for use on the iPhone, Apple has approved the application and made it available in the iPhone App Store.

Skyfire has been making mobile browsers for years now, and has versions of its software running on Android, Windows Mobile and Symbian S60 handsets. Skyfire claims that its browser was installed on over one million Android devices in its first three months of availability earlier this year. Now, it is available for the iPhone.

What makes Skyfire a compelling alternative to the iPhone's Safari browser? In a word, Flash.

iPhone users will be able to watch Flash content on Web sites, even though Skyfire doesn't run Flash. Its proxy-based system decodes Flash into HTML5 on the fly and then delivers the content to the handset. In addition, Skyfire comes with native support for social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Apple has famously -- or infamously -- prevented native Flash support on the iPhone. None of its "i" devices can access and run Flash content. This often leaves some web content unavailable to iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch users.

Skyfire also believes its "Explore" function sets it apart. By using the Explore feature, Skyfire users can call up fresh content relevant to their current browser activity. For example, if you're reading an article about the current U2 stadium tour and press the Explore button, the browser will automatically skim the Internet for video, news, images, and other content related to the U2 tour.

Skyfire lists the following features of its iPhone browser:

  • Adaptive streaming technology ensures optimal utilization of network and processor bandwidth (preserves battery life)
  • Sharing to Facebook and Twitter - it's simple!
  • Facebook Quickview - Check your Facebook News/Wall without opening another app or page
  • Intuitive and finger friendly user interface for easy browsing experience
  • Load full desktop webpages on your mobile device
  • Multi-tab browsing - open up to eight windows and browse simultaneously.
So, how does it work in the real world? The application costs $2.99 to download. I installed it on my iPhone 4 and iPad. On the iPhone 4, it works very well. I was able to scan several web sites -- including YouTube -- and see the embedded Flash content without jumping to a dedicated application. It's not exactly light on its feet, though. Videos some times take a while to load. And by "a while" I mean more than a minute. It looks good, though, and otherwise appears to function properly.

The Skyfire experience is better on the iPhone when compared to the iPad, however. The browser hasn't been optimized for the iPad's display. Users have to hit the "2X" control, which just doubles the size of the app on the iPad's screen. It works, but doesn't look as good as it does on the iPhone.

Bottom line? If you absolutely have to have access to Flash content on the web on your iPhone, Skyfire is probably worth the $3 to install and use.

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