65 Comments

Summary:

After posting Kevin Tofel’s demo of the struggles he had with Flash-based video on his Nexus One mobile handset, we’ve received a ton of comments, including response videos from readers who showed their own experiences with Flash on Android mobile handsets. Here are just a few.

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Since posting Kevin Tofel’s demo of Flash video on his Nexus One handset, we’ve received a ton of comments: some pro-Flash, some anti-Flash, some anti-Apple, some even anti-Kevin. One of the more interesting aspects of the debate is that many readers posted response videos, showing their own experiences with Flash on Android mobile handsets.

Michael Panzer, a reader from Germany, for instance, posted a video of his experience with Flash video on his Galaxy S. Unlike Kevin’s experience, movie trailers from Metacafe — including the HD trailer of Alpha and Omegaloaded just fine, despite a few stutters along the way, as did the trailer for the latest Resident Evil film, also in HD. However, Panzer didn’t record his attempt to watch videos on ABC.com or Fox.com, which were the sites that gave Kevin the most trouble.

Reader Dennis Forbes also posted a video response of his own. Using his own Android phone, he watched Kevin’s video on NewTeeVee (which is only slightly meta), debunking some of the claims of what mobile processors are capable of when compared to other processors, before moving on to watch some video on the device.

Forbes admits that he tried to duplicate Kevin’s experience with videos on ABC.com, Fox.com and Metacafe, but lays the blame on Kevin for “trying to play video streams that were too complex and has too high of a bit rate that the device just can’t handle.” He compares the mobile experience to one his son had on a Pentium 4 1.7 GHz PC that had been handed down: “I recall having similar problems; it was the same sort of deal… It simply couldn’t keep up.” Instead, he showed off how he’s “come to rely on [his Android handset] for some relatively low-grade needs,” including short videos from Zero Punctuation.

The strongest counterpoint comes from developer Paul Yanez, who recorded a video and posted a response on his blog entitled, “Video: Flash on Android Is Shockingly Great!!!” Yanez said he was surprised by our piece because he recently bought a Droid 2 and had had no problems with it playing Flash.

Yanez demonstrated the same episode of Bones that Kevin had trouble watching due to “seconds per frame” instead of “frames per second” being displayed during playback. In Yanez’s video “there’s no stutter, there’s no choppiness, the audio is synced up” when playing the 43-minute Bones episode, which leads him to conclude that “there’s nothing wrong with the Flash player” on the Droid 2. In his experience, the Flash player is stable, very powerful, and “there’s no difference between the Flash player in this mobile phone than on a desktop.”

What you need is optimal code, according to Yanez, who placed the Bones video on a blank HTML page before playback. As a result, he blames the Fox website for the issues that Kevin experienced during his demo, not the Flash video player itself. All Fox has to do to improve the experience for end users, according to Yanez, is make the video an image and launch the video player in a new window.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Lynn Wallenstein.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: HTML5’s a Game-Changer for Web Apps (subscription required)

  1. OK, so to support Flash on mobile devices “all they have to do” is change the way their site works? That should be a simple enough job for all the Flash based video sites out there…

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    1. Marcelo Negrini Thursday, September 2, 2010

      Well, bro, if the developers are any good, it should be a matter of changing a rule in a content management system. Otherwise somebody should get unemployed fast.

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      1. Wrong. “Bro”. It has to be optimized for mobile. Duh.

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    2. With that attitude, why should developers focus on transcoding their media libraries to HTML5? Why should they stop using a write-once run-anywhere approach with Actionscript/Flash and instead code up complex UIs in JS that may require custom code for each browser?

      Basically, it’s a matter of what adds value. Popping out a video into it’s own window, as demonstrated here, is something that can provide big gains with very little effort.

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      1. *transcoding their media libraries to support HTML5

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      2. Run anywhere? Hardly.

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    3. At least for sites with HD video, as Flash sites with normal or lower-quality video seem to be just fine. Also the site with HD video are more likely to be the sites that will make a lower quality video available shortly as more mobile phones include Flash Player 10.1.

      It’s really not surprising that video with more pixels than are available on the screen of these small mobile devices have issues taking this video, decoding it and then shrinking it recalculating how each pixel should be rendered. Anyone who takes these sites and makes HTML5 video version of these same sites would result in similar problems.

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  2. that’s what it allways will be, flash yes or no, html 5 yes or no. it depends on the device and the mobile connection.
    AND on a clean and fast code.
    mobile devices will never be as fast your ordinary workstation. so to all developer out there: it’s not the technologie that matters, it’s your way of coding that makes fast mobile experience!
    think of it, all the time ;)

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  3. [...] Is Flash on Android “Shockingly Bad” or “Shockingly Great”? September 2, 2010Tracked on [...]

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  4. Great video responses so far. What’s interesting to me is that all of the performance variance — I’ve had both good and bad experiences with Adobe Flash Player 10.1 — is a key takeaway. The variability of the experience is dependent on the site, video format (optimized for mobile or not) and of course, hardware & and connectivity. I’m not suggesting Apple is “right” for not allowing Flash on iOS, but that decision is consistent with Apple’s attempt to guarantee and control a consistent user experience.

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    1. What Jobs did was to blame the bad experiences on Flash. That was simply misleading and insulting to those of us who know the truth (just like in the whole antennagate).

      There is nothing, I mean NOTHING, in HTML5 that will solve the problem of phones not being able to play some video streams. HTML5 or Flash, the developer has to code and setup the video stream (or multiple versions of streams) properly for mobiles with varying degree of capability.

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    2. Safari on my iPad “consistently” crashed when I’m on m.youtube, who should I blame that on?

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      1. Who should you blame? Yourself. If it crashes “consistently” there is something flawed in your hardware and you should take it back for a new one. If you went past 30 days on it and or didn’t get an extended warranty too bad for you. Mine has yet to crash on me. I guess your so use to a bad experience with other hardware you just assumed an iPad that crashes consistently is par for the course.

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    3. Personally I have turned off flash by default on my desktop browser. But when I want to see an embedded flash video on a web page, I watch – just that video. Works well for me. And this is exactly how flash behaves on Android.

      As others have said, it depends on how the flash/web has been coded. I’d think that it would be much easier to do that with already created content than to rebuild it in HTML5 and JS using immature tools.

      But here’s the interesting this to ponder. I came across this site which compares different technologies http://www.themaninblue.com/writing/perspective/2010/03/22/. The flash video played well and consistently on multiple browsers. The Canvas video was all over the place across 3 browsers and my phone. So a similarly coded HTML5 video is much less consistent.

      So I’d say, at least for the present, it’s pretty obvious that Steve Jobs is just plain wrong. It should me, as a user, that should get to decide if I want Flash or not.

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      1. Steve Jobs is not wrong. He’s the CEO of Apple if chooses to ensure that the iPhone doesn’t act as buggy as other smartphones he can.

        I’ve found that viewing any flash video on my crappy froyo phone drops from 200MB to 30MB free memory. Funny things start happening to the phone whether I struggle past an optimized video or with a choppy non optimized one. Text message and new email alerts start tripping the phone out with crazy artifact of the notifications. Had I not installed a 3rd party task manager I’d have to reboot the thing to recover after watching a video. Oh oh and I found yet another bug Froyoism. My ringtone randomly changes on it’s own!

        Your absolutely right you have the choice to decide if you want flash or not. If you want flash don’t buy an iPhone. Just like I have a choice after my carrier contract commitment is over to leave this Android crap behind me. Fortunately for google they have me captive for a year to put something out that’s better then frozen yogurt to change my mind. Did you hear me google your Android is CRAP!!! Fix it or the defections will continue to platforms that have a more consistent user experience.

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      2. It’s pretty obvious that html5 and its capabilities are in its infancy. Testing it in several different browsers at this point in time to prove any sort of point is silly. Just like it would be silly to assume Flash 10.1 in beta stage is a direct indicator of how it would perform when the final release is out.

        Unfortunately 10.1 is now fully out for mobile devices and fails to live up to expectations.

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    4. Kevin, I think you had all Flash content load on your Nexus One when you did this video, which sucked down CPU and caused your flash videos to stutter. You should change your settings so that only flash content that you click on loads.

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  5. And, shockingly, no mention of how much battery was left after playing one video.

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    1. Exactly …

      … I wonder how good the “entire web” experience is with a dead battery.

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    2. Sure. Because HTML5 video using the H.264 codec doesn’t drain battery at all.

      Hate to break it to you, chief, but all video functions eat battery not just the ones Steve tells you not to like.

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      1. rate

        /reɪt/ Show Spelled [reyt] Show IPA noun, verb, rat·ed, rat·ing.

        a certain quantity or amount of one thing considered in relation to a unit of another thing and used as a standard or measure

        Good try though … using Jobs in your argument was clever and original though.

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      2. Really? I don’t experience any significant difference in iPad battery life between general email/browsing use and Netflix streaming.

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      3. Hate to break it to YOU, chief, but the iPad can play 12.5 hours of HD h.264 video before the battery runs out. You show me any other device that can do that with Flash, and I’ll concede you have a point.

        Until that happens, the facts are simple, if you care about battery life you chose HTML5/h.264 over Flash.

        With the web as it exists now, the mobile Flash experience is horrific. If you are going to change websites anyway to improve the mobile experience, you do so using HTML5, not Flash.

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      4. Bupka Cordon Blue Saturday, September 4, 2010

        Hate to break it to ya Marky Mark but Stevey Steve is like so much smarter than you.

        Sorry but Flash is a CPU and Battery WHORE GALORE!

        Steve’s baby HTML 5 runs cooler than the other side of the pillow.

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  6. I have to say, my impression/expectation of Flash on mobile devices was never “all the existing stuff will magically work straight away.” I thought the value would come down the line, and it would take work before it was there. It seems that most folks are not so patient.

    And everyone’s focusing only on video, too.

    Flash (and AIR) is a cross-platform runtime that would allow creation of mobile-targeted apps with commonly-available tools, and using widely-available skillsets
    Flash can be used as a video platform, but ideally, the video should be tailored for mobile devices

    With the rise of decent mobile web browsers a couple of years ago (esp on iPhone), there was talk of “never need a separate web page again, just use the desktop experience.” But how did that work out? More and more sites are making really good, mobile-friendly versions today – because they improve usability. For stuff to work well on both desktop and mobile, takes work and careful thought.

    Now I’m not particularly a fan of Flash; I’ve run Flash blockers on PCs for years and all-Flash websites irritate the hell out of me. But it does seem we’re clamouring to say the thing has failed out-of-hand, when it hasn’t even got going yet.

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  7. So the average consumer(my mother and father for example) is supposed to worry and wonder if a particular site is optimized for flash 10.1? Please….

    Jobs was right. Flash on portable devices is still too inconsistent at this point after years of development.

    Bigboy is right, what about the battery?

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    1. The battry will drain faster whenever you watch videos which is compute entensive. It has nothing to do with Flash itself. HTML5 will not use any less battery.

      Your “Bigboy” Jobs was misleading as he usually is.

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      1. Always amusing when people who don’t know anything try to pin the movement away from Flash on Jobs. When Microsoft, Google and many others are saying the same thing and supporting HTML 5. You think it’s just a coincidence that Google is moving You Tube to HTML 5 as fast as they can? Pay attention.

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      2. Sorry, you are the one going off topic with a blatant lie. Nobody (except Jobs and his sheeples) is pushing HTML5 citing battery issues of Flash playback. When Flash and HTML5 both play a video of the same H.264 codec and resolution/quality, you are not going to see much difference in battery usage — they both will drain faster than normal browsing.

        Stop spreading FUD against Flash. But I fully expect Jobs fanboys will continue to do so because iphone and ipad will be as good as dead if people keep using Flash.

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      3. Yeah, Michael that’s why Microsoft is pushing Silverlight because Steve Jobs told Microsoft that Flash is crap.

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      4. @darwin
        I suggest you pay attention yourself.

        Google are not “moving You Tube to HTML 5 as fast as they can”.
        They have an experimental HTML5 version with limited functionality that gives considerably worse performance for most users.
        No major video sites defaults to HTML5 if the user has the Flash Player installed, and only use it to be able to serve video to crippled devices as well.

        And I guess you missed Googles investments in WebM?
        Microsoft has stated that they will not include the codec with IE9, and Apple will not support it in Safari. And even if all browsers would release a version with support for WebM today it would take many years before a reasonable number of users has updated. Lots of people are still on IE7 and even IE6 which is like 10 years old now.

        Adobe on the other hand has announced support for WebM with Flash, and a new version of the Flash Player usually reaches over 90% within a year. With some help from YouTube it will probably be faster, especially when only counting YouTube users.
        If you think Flash will not remain a central part of YouTubes strategy you are delusional.
        By the time 90% of their visitors has a browser with WebM support, WebM will surely be superseded by another codec.

        Also you might have noticed that Google are integrating Flash with Chrome and are part of the Open Screen Project. So while they are supporting HTML5, they obviously are capable of supporting several technologies at once. Unlike MS and Apple they have no interest in trying to promote one technology over the other. They will primarily use whatever gives the best accessibility, performance and features. For anyone with a clue about the technology Flash will clearly be the obvious choice as the primary means of delivery for YouTube in the foreseeable future.

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  8. Why is a Google Buzz share button not provided on this site ?

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    1. Sorry for being off topic… but still I was missing it a lot.

      As for the Flash thing…. Even a kid can see right through Jobs’ misleading evil motives masquerading as a “customer experience champion”.

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  9. @ Kevin C. Tofel
    Great to see you come back with a second post allowing additional feedback on the topic of Flash Dance on our Androids. I have your site Bookmarked and will be a regular visitor. Also, I own an EVO and statistics show that Android users are more likely to click on adds than the iDont crowd. So go ahead and post some ads, I’ll click on a few so long as you optimize your video feeds for my mobile phone :)

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  10. The problem with the pro-Flash responses is that they’re not realistic. For example saying “trying to play video streams that were too complex and has too high of a bit rate that the device just can’t handle.” completely ignores that the entire reason for arguing for Flash on mobile devices is so that you can experiences the ‘entire Internet’ – but if that translates to ‘the entire internet except for the tough stuff’ regular people will get frustrated.

    And the guy who put the Bones video on a new, blank web page is even further off the mark. Yeah, it plays fine if you ignore the page it’s actually on that most people will use. Sigh…

    Look, regular people aren’t going to extract a video and toss it on some sample page. They’re not going to care if the video was encoded at too high of a bitrate. They’ll do what Tofel did – go to the pages that they want and expect the video to work. That’s the promise Adobe and Google have made. That such an experience doesn’t work well without hacks is Tofel’s POINT.

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    1. All I said was that the current fox.com website with video embedded within the webpage is not optimized for the web. All they or anyone who wants to provide a better user experience with video is detect whether the user-agent is mobile and if so swap out the video with an image that clicks through to the video page. That is how Youtube and the iPhone does it. It is not a hack, it is very simple, cost efficient thing to do and is very realistic.

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      1. I agree with Paul.

        It doesn’t take a genius to see his point. Which Rick you totally missed.

        As a developer like Paul, you have to isolate what’s causing the issue. When Paul removed the page and kept the flash player, you could immediately see that it was indeed NOT the flash player casuing the issue.

        The Flash Player is just fine.

        Additionally, Adobe has been instructing all of us developers to optimize flash content for mobile devices if that’s part of our target market. SO the whole issue of “No ones gonna do that” is moot.

        We already are, and all you as the user is going to see is a better flash experience on your mobile device, better flash video on your mobile device etc.

        Paul’s point rings true not only for developers who understand this stuff, but for users who don’t need to understand it, and just want it to work.

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