Video: Flash on Android Is Shockingly Bad

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Many have touted the availability of Flash on Android devices as a competitive advantage over Apple’s mobile devices, which rely on HTML5 and native apps for their video and interactivity. But how much of an advantage is it to be able to tune in to Flash-based video on your Android device? To find out, we turned to resident mobile expert Kevin Tofel and his trusty Nexus One to show us what one can expect from Flash on a device running the latest version of Google’s mobile OS.

But first, the setup: Kevin’s demo video was shot while he was connected to his local Wi-Fi network in his home, which features a 25-Mbps Verizon FiOS broadband connection, so connectivity shouldn’t be an issue. Furthermore, the Nexus One sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 1Ghz processor, so it should have plenty of horsepower for loading video on the device. So with that in mind, how did Flash video actually perform on the Nexus One?

Shockingly bad.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9x7d5BpRdKY]

While trying to watch videos from ABC.com, Fox.com and Metacafe on the handset, Kevin found that videos were slow to load, if they loaded at all, leading to an overall very inconsistent experience while using his Android device for video.

While trying to load an episode of Wipeout on ABC’s mobile site, he received an error message urging him to “try again later.” An attempt at viewing new ABC show Rookie Blue was only slightly more successful, as he was able to load a Toyota ad before the player froze up, but he wasn’t able to actually load up the episode.

Kevin was able to get an episode of Bones running on Fox.com, but the video was choppy despite the Wi-Fi connection and the Nexus One’s mobile processor. In fact, the Bones episode seemed more like a slideshow when viewed on the Android device than an actual video. Not only that, but the sound wasn’t synced with the “video” being displayed. (At least Fox warned viewers that the video being shown was “not optimized for mobile.”)

Surprisingly enough, the best experience might have come not from the site of one of the major broadcasters, but from video startup Metacafe. The first attempt at streaming a video from Metacafe — a clip from the previous night’s Emmys — was unsuccessful because it was hosted by Hulu, and Hulu blocks mobile devices. However, after attempting to watch a video in HD — which also was not optimized for mobile devices and loaded like a slideshow — Kevin was able to get a semi-viewable stream of the trailer for the latest Resident Evil film up and running.

While in theory Flash video might be a competitive advantage for Android users, in practice it’s difficult to imagine anyone actually trying to watch non-optimized web video on an Android handset, all of which makes one believe that maybe Steve Jobs was right to eschew Flash in lieu of HTML5 on the iPhone and iPad.

Update: A few readers have submitted their own videos showing how Flash works on their Android devices. Check them out here.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: Why Apple Hasn’t Sewn Up the Tablet Market — Yet (subscription required)

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