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iPhone Left Out of the Flash Party: Big Deal

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Today’s big announcement is that Flash is getting an update to 10.1 that will bring support for full Flash functionality to a lot of mobile phones — except, of course, for the iPhone, which remains staunchly Flash-independent.

Google (s goog) Android, Symbian, and now BlackBerry (s rim) are all signed on with Flash to work together on the Open Screen Project, which is designed to bring the full-fledged Flash experience to all platforms, including HD video and Adobe Air applications. Apple (s aapl) looks to be missing the boat, but just what kind of seafaring vessel is it really passing up here?

Granted, Flash 10.1 promises to deliver big improvements in the way devices handle YouTube, which is a real, tangible benefit that everyone can appreciate. But what about the rest of it? Adobe (s adbe) Air apps on all platforms? I don’t like Air on the desktop, and I already avoid it at all costs (which basically means I don’t have to use it as long as I don’t have to use Windows). And aside from Air, what has Flash really done for me lately?

There are two instances where I notice the lack of Flash on my iPhone while browsing. The first is when visiting some band and many big-budget movie and game sites. The second is when I run into some instances of online advertising (really, both are promotional tools and could probably fall under the “advertising” blanket category).

With movie/gaming sites, I sometimes make a note to check it out at home if I really care, or I just shrug my shoulders and check out something else. I don’t spend the next 10 minutes swearing softly to myself and cursing Apple for keeping me from my pre-packaged corporate promotional material. Nor do I feel as though I’m now somehow worse off than my friends with Flash Lite-enabled devices.

Add to this the fact that CSS animation and other dynamic HTML effects are making exciting strides, and that these will likely be included in future W3 specifications and eventually bypass the need for things like Flash altogether, and my level of envy would dip even further, were that actually possible.

So am I terribly upset that Apple won’t be taking part in the wonderful new world of Flash 10.1, which should ensure that shooting the duck to win a prize in an annoying animated banner ad will be the same edifying experience on my desktop and on my mobile device? In a word, no. In many words, I’m glad that Apple continues to adhere to its policy of staying away from a tech that may be widespread, but in point of fact offers very little value.

38 Responses to “iPhone Left Out of the Flash Party: Big Deal”

    • jansensan

      wow there are a lot of simple hatred towards flash here, and many for useless purposes.

      – bad flash content makes the medium invalid
      wow that a bold statement! let’s then trash tv, any stupid pop band and also magazines while we are at it? don’t blame the content on the medium. although marshall mcluhan would have a lot to say about that…

      – when i browse to a site on my iphone and i cant see flash, it sucks
      yea, it does. however, i totally agree that the flash plug-in has no place on the iphone browser, hell, on any mobile phone browser. those devices are not that strong and flash is in a browser. get it into you heads people, flash is within a browser, hence limited in capabilities. how about silver light? is it even on iphone? i dont have one so i dont know. how do fare java applets on iphone? and whatever answers you give here, the choice to have an iphone-directed content is the client’s choice. iphone not the majority of our client’s browser? scratch the alternative content.

      – free flash games will suck on my iphone
      then don’t download them! dont encourage crap! flash is a great way to program games without having to learn an awkward language like objective-c, but crap is always crap. i’ve seen a lot of shitty apps on iphone, does that make the iphone a bad gaming device? look at how much
      shovelware the nintendo ds and the psp carry? they are good still.

      – flash is not a good programming language for anything, html5/css/my mom is better
      wow, how insulting. how many people do that job? i do for one. yes i agree, it is often misused, and probably will stay misused. how many developpers in this thread? are you lucky enough to fight your clients on the choice of technology? yea? good for you, pat yourselves on the back. no, just like me? fight the good fight for a while, then do your job. i personally blame all senior devs who look down on flash for not teaching new users of flash how to program properly like they do to java and c devs. flash devs taught themselves programming and design on their own.

      so, i will purchase an iphone. i will make games on it. i will publish them and they will not be crap.

      i vouch for flash on the iphone as a stand alone app, jsut like it has been accepted. flash indeed should not be added as a browser plugin on the iphone

  1. I frequently arrive at sites when using iPhone Safari that want to use flash and it exceedingly frustrating that I can’t view the content.

    While I put up with this on the iPhone (under protest!) I sure as heck am not going to buy a larger format machine like the fabled Apple tablet if it is based on the iPhone OS and includes these sorts of limitations!

  2. A stream of free flash games would most likely diminish app sales. Enough reason for Apple not to like it.

    However it is no reason for users not to like the functionality, if you don’t want it, you can simply turn it off. It can simply be there for the people who want it, why would anyone be against that?

  3. Torbjørn Vik Lunde

    One of my favorite things about my iPhone is the fact that it doesn’t run Flash, and in turn: no mobile websites are stupid enough to make them using Flash.

    I had a Windows Mobile HTC Flash device. It was even more slow, horrible and crashy than Flash is on Mac and PCs.

    For the record: I would hate Flash even if it wasn’t slow. The main problem is that it is an non-standard technology. HTML5, CSS3 and JS does what Flash does, but better and in an open manner.

    Plugins for the web should be avoided at all costs.

  4. I’m really disappointed that I can’t get Flash support for my iPhone. There are a number of sites that I freqent (mostly entertainment sites, but also various street view sites) that I can’t visit on my iPhone due to a lack of Flash. I think that the iPhone needs Flash to be truly perfect!

  5. Adam Jackson

    Flash isn’t coming to the iPhone. I say, “good riddance.”

    1. Battery life
    2. Hogs Resources
    3. reduces reliability of Safari and the iPhone itself.

    Unplug your MacBook Pro, you’ll see around 5 hours of battery life remaining (new models w/ brightness and wifi up). Then go full screen in HULU and see it drop to 1.75 hours left. Flash is to blame for this ridiculous battery life.

    Then the plugin crashes which sucks even more.

    It’s a piece of software that is very popular but I honestly wish it wasn’t. I’m a fan of silverlight. SL is light, fast and much more reliable. Apple has forced big sites like YouTube to prepare an MPEG-4 version of their videos for iPhone and other mobiles. That’s fine. All sites should have that. Video services are losing out on a big mobile market by not auto-detecting the browser and playing the MPEG-4 version of the video instead of flash.

    • Hi Adam, are you saying that you want to stream full-screen (HD?) movies & yet still expect your battery life to be the same as when you’re *not* streaming movies? I can’t stream Hulu in the UK, but that’s one complaint I’ve not heard with regards to YouTube or BBC iPlayer so are you sure it’s the technology and not the site? Streaming video through a browser plugin is going to be fairly intensive though.

      Yes completely agree, Flash can be a big resource hog and if this happens when you’re not performing intensive activities then that’s a bad thing (though the announcements from todays Adobe keynote indicate that this resource hogging has been a major focus and has been reduced dramatically … they are banding around figures like 30-50% reduction in player 10.1 but I’ll wait till I see it first hand) ;) Still, Adobe have been working with people like ARM to enable gains at a chip level, so at least they are addressing this, and it’s easy to level complaints at any technology (ie originally no copy & paste on the iPhone) but all technologies have a development cycle and depend upon the advancement of supporting technologies. Flash does have problems but I’m happy as long as they are constantly being addressed – Silverlight is a well needed kick up the arse for Adobe!!

      “reduces reliability of Safari” …. okay …. and the iPhone itself.” Errrr … not sure how you can make that statement when Flash isn’t even on the iPhone?

      Well, now it is, albeit in a very round-about way

    • Adam Jackson

      I think developers should embrace Quicktime and MPEG which is open standards. These will be better overall than Flash.

      I’m just talking from experience of using flash on the desktop browsers (chrome, firefox, safari). Flash is very problematic.

    • “I think developers should embrace Quicktime and MPEG which is open standards. These will be better overall than Flash.”

      I understand (although I’ve suffered loads of issues with QT on Windows and I don’t get these problems with Flash so I guess different people have different experiences) MPEG is great, but for streaming, compare the file sizes and it becomes very apparent why people are not using MPEG or QT for streaming and why Flash became so popular initially. Also Flash video offers queue points and additional features which I’m not sure are offered by the other formats (? <-yeah could well be wrong here :) ) This may not apply to your use-case but there is never a one-size-fits-all. People want different things out of video. I think Adobe added features to appeal to companies. It's not like they forced people to adopt Flash for video.

      Open standards are cool, Adobe have open-sourced a lot but I would like to see it go further, but then I'd like to see lots of other things like Apple not lock down their app store or tie you into a single iPhone provider. All companies need to ensure they have revenue streams I guess.

  6. If Flash offers little value, YouTube, Hulu and other video sites would not have flourished.

    I resent people bitching about Flash when the technology brought us countless fun and value before Web 2.0 like games, and now YouTube and other video sites that would not have been possible without Flash.

    I agree those Flash ads are annoying especially expandable ones, or those with voices where if you accidentally mouse over it, it’ll say “You’ve won a million dollars!”.

    Also, if AIR sucks, please explain Tweetdeck and Seesmic?

    Way too many people mindlessly bitch about Flash/AIR without weighing their importance.

  7. Jeff Merritt

    For me, this is a very bad thing. When surfing the web on my iPod Touch, I am constantly frustrated when I follow a link to some interesting content only to receive the “You need to install the latest version of Flash” message in order to view it. In fact, it appears that most videos on the web are flash-based because only rarely can I get them to play (unless they are embedded from You Tube).

  8. Flash on the iPhone is not something that you’d want in its current state, but that’s partly because most flash-only (promotional or not) websites aren’t optimized for mobile browsing. Everything just becomes too small and unusable. Also, finger gestures aren’t supported in the current SWF players (but they are in flash player 10.1).
    When flash developers start making games and interactive experiences specifically for mobile platforms, making use of all of its capabilities (motion sensor, finger gestures, multi touch, and the lower resolution), it will be a completely different story.
    Sooner or later the flash player will be available on other mobile platforms like Android, and it will finally get a chance to prove itself in spite of Apple.

  9. quandmeme

    I’m cheering for the “standing on principle” guys. As I imagine the future, I would much prefer a web were content came through light-weight standards-based browsers without monstrous plug-ins. If Apple can leverage its popularity to cause any percentage of web developers to use non-plug-in based delivery, then it is a good thing.

    There comes a time, where the Beta-max-because-it’s-better becomes a waste of energy and it is time to switch to VHS. If flash is not marginalized and most users access sites with flash-capable devices, I hope Apple transitions. Until then, I applaud the choice.

    • A plugin-less browser may be a fine ideal but there are a few major hurdles:
      – HTML5, jQuery and whatnot are still ages away from delivering the same rich content that flash can deliver. This is not a biased opinion but a simple cold hard fact.
      – Browser compatibility is still a huge issue that actually seems to be getting worse.
      I’m all for open standards and I do believe some day the browser won’t need flash to build online webapps like Aviary or the BBC Formula1 site, but that day isn’t going to arrive any time soon.

    • browserp

      Browser engineers have failed designers, developers and the marketplace by baking the rendering engine into their software. Browsers should be nothing *but* a collection of plug-ins. The Chrome Frame plugin for IE is the best idea in browsers in a long time, insomuch as is represents a complete separation of the page render engine from the UI… just as A/V codecs are separated from any given media player UI. If browsers had evolved with such an architecture new lightweight standards could be rolled out with consistency across browser UIs and enjoy much faster uptake, while keeping backward compatibility. Where cross-platform consistency and adoption rates matter (hint: almost everywhere), Macromedia / Adobe are right on the money. No lightweight standard will ever match this.

  10. Flash isn’t just for big websites. Thousands of small independent websites use flash, such as for my photography website. Designers, illustrators, photographers, filmmakers and independent artists. (Just the types who use Macs and iPhones). So it’s a disappointment that the content of these websites, including mine, is blocked. Guess I need to create an html website and an iPhone website as well. But it’s not as though the whole world is html and the insignificant rest is flash.

  11. Considering how awfully Flash is implemented in OS X, iPhone users should be thankful that it doesn’t work on the iPhone. I can just imagine the flood of “Why is my iPhone battery dying after 5 minutes??” threads on macrumors if it Flash ever comes to the iPhone.

  12. Well if this new version of flash is anything like the old versions then Im glad it’s not going to be on the iPhone. Other then playing games on FaceBook flash has very little value. To those who like seeing video clips in flash I say take a look at QuickTime or DIVX and then talk to me about why you think low quality browser crashing video content is a good thing…

  13. I still come across websites that are using Flash on a daily basis, and they are not for big movies, games and ads. I do agree we don’t need Adobe Air on the iPhone but some implementation of Flash would help as it is easier for one company, ie Apple, to implement something for the iPhone than for untold 10s of thousands of websites to rewrite their sites with “CSS animation and other dynamic HTML effects.” As iPhone users we should not have to be blocked from content everyone else can access just because Steve Jobs wants to stand on principle.

  14. Michael

    I agree with Darell and Richard, I see no need for Flash on my iPhone and am happy that it is not on it. I only hope that if Apple ever decides to let Flash on the iPhone that they will provide a on/off switch for those of us that don’t want it.

  15. Astrochimp

    I agree, and would like to add:
    My impression is that it’s a flaky peessa cr**. I use it a lot because my kids love watching Sesame Street videos (note: nevermind copyright issues for th moment) but I have no choice, and it frequently crashes. My guess is that Adobe doesn’t bother with quality because they’re happy to let Microsoft take the blame, which they don’t deserve in this case. (I’m running Windows 7 RTM.)

    Silverlight is much, much better IMO. Hooray for honest competition!

  16. I think it makes sense that Apple won’t include Flash … and yes I think it’s in-part due to some of the annoyances you mentioned, but mainly because it would allow free (AIR) apps to become available to the iPhone and fundamentally break the app-store model.

    You mention that you don’t like AIR but don’t mention why. I’m curious, as you seem fine with DHTML … and Apple obviously :) AIR uses the WebKit engine (the same one used in Safari), plus AIR apps can be built using JavaScript alone ( so I’d be interested to know what particular problems you have with AIR?

    Most complaints I’ve seen about Flash Flex & AIR focus on aspects of poor application implementation and are little or nothing to do with the technology itself. However, when apps are developed well they can be of great merit. Check out , & for decent examples. Really! Spend a bit of time with each one and I’d love to hear some genuine feedback on what you do &don’t like about each one.

    Any technology can be misused and the more powerful it is, the more the scope for misuse … with HTML5’s new tags such as Canvas I’m sure we will see a host of truly awful things in HTML5 … I wonder whether people will blame HTML5 or the creators of the content? There are certainly things I don’t like about Flash but much of the bad wrap comes from it being misused and that is the fault of the app/website creator more so than the technology. Many other complaints address irritations that were actually fixed years ago.

    … and yes I am a Flex developer. I’m not afraid to knock the technologies I use when they deserve it (and I’ve been very critical of them at times), but I just don’t think many of the arguments I read these days are actually that balanced. For example, it seems very short sighted to blame Flash for adverts; When hideous animated ads are easily achievable in HTML5, will you be saying you hate HTML5 because someone uses a Canvas element to deliver a nauseating ad to the page? I hope not because that’s misplaced.

    For the record, I don’t really miss Flash on the iPhone other than having the ability to get (or create) apps for free :)

  17. I for one, have a great dislike for flash. I find it bulky, and extremely over used. Prior to web 2.0 I understood its purpose and its use, but as you said with the strides from CSS and DHTML, the purpose is no longer there imo.

  18. My thought on this is that Apple does not want to contribute to a company’s growth if they don’t have to, the less 3rd party dependent features that they offer the more chances they get to develop or have developers make everything else work for Apple stuff, for them… good move, for the user… not so good, another example like that is, the purchase of a Maps company back in July of this year.

    My prediction: Google is going to become the largest entity world wide for web-based everything: Search Engine of course, OS, email, Phone provider, Health Care, Mapping, Banking, Billing, Social Networking, etc. just wait and you will see.

  19. “I don’t like Air on the desktop, and I already avoid it at all costs (which basically means I don’t have to use it as long as I don’t have to use Windows).”

    Care to explain why? I find Air ok, except that it doesn’t have OS X style keyboard bindings.

    • I think this is a classic Mac apologist statement. “Apple doesn’t support it” – hence it’s bad!

      Why we need Flash in iPhone? Cause there are many important, interactive (and USABLE) dashboards and Flash video sites (apart from YouTube).

      BTW – all of my ‘computing-devices’ are from Apple – iPhone, iMac, and Macbook Pro.

    • I can’t imagine it would be easy to play a Flash game from within a multi touch web browser. How would you possibly be able to tell the browser the difference between scrolling within the page and moving things around within the Flash game?? I think that would be incredibly frustrating.