The web media-savvy Skyfire web browser has finally gotten real on the iPhone. This is great news for all you iPhone users who just can’t live without embedded videos and interactive websites based on Adobe Flash technology. But, before you get all worked up trying to find the Skyfire browser in the iPhone AppStore, you should know that the Skyfire app for iPhone is still awaiting approval from Apple. That said, we’ve had a chance to get up close and personal with the Skyfire browser on our iPhone 4, and it’s been an eye-opening experience – an experience punctuated by streaming Flash videos and interactive Flash websites. The iPhone never had it so good.
First off, what is Skyfire? It’s a mobile web browser created by the company that begat its namesake. The Skyfire browser’s chief claim to fame is that it is capable of playing embedded Flash videos on your smartphone of choice. The iPhone, as you’re likely well aware, does not support Flash content at all. Zilch. Android phones with Android 2.2 OS and Adobe Flash 10.1 Player installed can view Flash content, but you need to have the latest and greatest software to make that magic happen.
Skyfire plays nice with Flash videos and websites (most of them, at least) because it uses a server-assisted browsing experience. Basically, the browser uses big, powerful servers to process all the Flash content on a website and then pushes that data to your phone. This means your phone doesn’t have to be super powerful and also reduces the amount of data that you’re pulling down on your smartphone data plan.
On the iPhone, Skyfire worked very well in our tests. Most websites that use Adobe Flash rendered just as we’d expect on the desktop. Some websites, like Pinkberry’s homepage, didn’t load the interactive Flash content. Other sites, like HTC’s homepage, worked just fine. But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Flash videos mostly play perfectly in the browser, with no audio-sync issues and impressive frame rates. Flash videos don’t load in-line in the browser, because Skyfire takes a little time to process the video and push that data to the phone. When you click on a link to a Flash video, say on YouTube, you’re taken to the video page. You’ll be told that you need to install Adobe Flash Player, but if you look at the browser’s toolbar below, you’ll see an hourglass icon indicating that the browser is preparing the video for your viewing pleasure. When it’s ready, the video will pop up from the toolbar, and allow you to start playing in full-screen mode. It’s really quite seamless.
And, if you’re browsing in another browser, like Safari Mobile, or something similar, you can still open Flash video links in Skyfire. Simply tap and hold on the link in your “other” browser and copy the link. Then, go to you homescreen and fire up Skyfire. The app will automatically detect that you have a pending video link in your clipboard and ask you if you want to open that link/video. Voila, easy as pie.
You can also easily switch between desktop and iPhone mode by hitting the “browsing mode” icon in the top right corner of the browser. And, if you feel like browsing without leaving a trail — you know, for those, uh “unmentionable” websites that you like to frequent — each browser tab in Skyfire can be set to “private browsing” mode. Other browsers allow you to browse privately as well, but the stealth browsing usually applies to all tabs. With Skyfire, you can retain browsing history for some tabs, and cover your trail in others.
If you’re the sharing type, you can quickly share webpages with your friends via Twitter, email, or Facebook by hitting the “+” icon in the lower right corner. Or, if you just feel like catching up on your own Facebook wall, the Facebook “Quickview” option is at your disposal.
Alas, Skyfire has yet to hit the AppStore. Skyfire tells us that the web browser is pending approval, but that really could mean anything when it comes to Apple’s approval process. For the time being, we’ll just have to wait and see if Apple gives it the greenlight. Meanwhile, enjoy the video demo below!