Interested in watching web video as it was meant to be seen, but on your mobile phone? Then you need to get your hands on Skyfire. This mobile browser, which works with Windows Mobile and Symbian S60 series phones, displays multimedia-heavy web pages the same way they would look on your computer. I tested Skyfire, which is now available in version 1.0, on a phone running the Windows Mobile operating system. In a head-to-head test with Internet Explorer Mobile, Skyfire outperformed Microsoft’s mobile browser in almost every category.
Skyfire currently supports full Flash and Windows Media videos, including Flash 10, Silverlight 2.0, QuickTime and RealPlayer files. It displays desktop versions of web sites, which, of course, makes any text look miniscule, but Skyfire’s controls let you easily zoom in to get a closer view. This zoom function means you can see the video players themselves more easily, too.
I installed Skyfire on a Palm Treo Pro, and pointed the browser to YouTube. I was easily able to search for content by zooming in on the site’s search box. I found an HD video, which looked sharp and clear — initially. As the video wore on, though, it occasionally looked a bit smeared and the audio and video sometimes went out of sync. And when you zoom in on an HD video, you end up cropping off part of the image. That’s because the aspect ratio of the phone’s screen doesn’t match that of the video. Overall, the HD quality was not what you’d see on your TV, or even your PC, but it was impressive for a phone.
And watching YouTube videos in Skyfire was a far superior experience to watching them in IE Mobile, which recommends that you download a YouTube application rather than viewing the site directly. IE Mobile does allow you to view videos from the site itself, but the mobile site seemed especially spare. Videos looked good, but finding them wasn’t as easy as it was when viewing the site from the Skyfire browser.
Next test: Hulu. Here, IE Mobile just couldn’t compete. I never got the site to display Hulu.com correctly. I just got an error message saying the site could not be displayed.
When using Skyfire, though, the experience was almost on a par with that of using a desktop browser. The site displays just as it does on your desktop, and you can zoom in and out to see more. Video plays back quickly and looks great, though HD content was not quite as clear as what I saw onYouTube.
My only complaint with viewing Hulu content on Skyfire was that the video playback controls, which should appear when you move your cursor around the screen, didn’t always show up — and when they did, they were simply to small to use comfortably.
If you’re a web video fan with a Windows Mobile- or Symbian-based mobile phone, you’ll want to check out Skyfire. It gives you access to a variety of videos direct from the source, and it lets you access them from within one application, rather than requiring you to download and access separate mobile video apps independently. Plus, it’s easy to install, easy to use, and it’s free. In short, there’s not a lot not to like.