Saturday, November 6, 2010

Does Skyfire App Really Bring Flash to the iPhone? Hands On

PC Mag

The Skyfire Web Browser app, which claims to play Flash videos on the iPhone, made its debut in the Apple App Store Wednesday afternoon. For $2.99, the app will turn Web-based Flash video into HTML5 and play it on your iPhone. But does it really work?

The app is designed as a full-fledged Web browser and includes an address bar, Google search box, and popular trending search terms. In theory, the app transcodes Flash content into HTML5 via the embedded the Safari browser, but in a brief test Wednesday afternoon, Skyfire left a little something to be desired.

After downloading Skyfire, the app issues a warning that it contains age-restricted material, presumably because it can troll the entire Web, including adult content. As such, Skyfire Web Browser has an adult, 17+ label due to "frequent/intense sexual content or nudity," according to the App Store.

After a few instructional screens providing an overview of what the app can do, Skyfire landed on its Web browser. Since an October demo video from Skyfire showed the app in action on the Daily Show's Web site, I too navigated to to test it out. The site loaded normally enough. The main video up top was blacked out with the phrase "Adobe Flash Player" in blue in the middle. At first the app didn't do anything, so I tapped on the video, which took me to the Adobe Web site. A pop-up on the "SkyBar" below then told me I'd have to use the video button to access Flash content.

Returning to, the video button did indeed pop up in a small icon on the bottom bar. Tapping on the video image took me to another page, where it buffered for a moment before failing. "Unable to play video. Would you like to report it to help us improve our system?" a message read. I reported, and navigated back to the site.

I decided to give the "video" section of a chance, and had better luck – sort of. The video button emerged, and the video actually started loading this time, but it eventually displayed a "poor connectivity – video playback in low bandwidth mode" message. The video did load, and I could hear audio, but the video didn't sync up, and eventually stalled, returning to the "Video loading" screen.

Given that my service level is not ideal in my cube, I moved down the hall, where my iPhone 4 kicked from two bars to four. Still, this did not improve connectivity on Skyfire.

I navigated over to and to see if video on those sites would fare any better, but had trouble loading and returned the original "unable to play video" error. Skyfire warns that videos may take between 15-25 seconds to load, but I gave it much longer than that and nothing. It could be first-day growing pains or a lot of eager users clogging the system, but at this point, I wasn't able to actually get it to work.

Those looking to circumvent the Hulu Plus pay wall are out of luck; Hulu is not supported. "They don't allow it," Skyfire said in the app description. The Skyfire Web Browser also does not support Flash games or apps.

UPDATE: Demand for the app has prompted Skyfire to temporarily stop accepting new purchases from the App Store, the company said in a blog post. "The demand far exceeds our initial projections," the company wrote. "Thus we are effectively 'sold out' and will temporarily not accept new purchases from the App Store. We are working really hard to increase capacity and will be accepting new purchases from the App Store as soon as we can support it." The app is no longer showing up in search; it was the top grossing app on the App Store after five hours, Skyfire said.