Flash on Android: Look but don't touch

The sweeping deficiencies of Flash Player 10.2 for Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets can't all be chalked up to its 'beta' status

By Neil McAllister, InfoWorld |  Mobile & Wireless, Android, Flash player

There's no stand-alone Flash app for Android. The installer simply adds Flash support to the existing Android Web browser, much like the Flash plug-in does for desktop browsers.

Adobe also offers a separate app called Adobe Flash Showcase, which is nothing more than a list of links to featured Flash-enabled sites. I doubted these carefully vetted showpieces would give me the whole picture, however. I wanted to see how Flash Player behaved in real-world browsing scenarios, so I skipped Adobe's canned demos and went looking for Flash content on my own.

Streaming video is the most popular application for Flash today, so I tried that first. Ironically, I had a hard time finding demo cases. The Xoom ships with a video player that automatically launches when you view content from YouTube or Dailymotion, so you don't need Flash for those sites. On the other hand, Hulu wouldn't work even with Flash installed; all it would say was, "Unfortunately, this video is not available on your platform. We apologize for any inconvenience."

On sites where I could view Flash video -- such as Comedy Central and MTV -- results were mixed. Playback quality was mostly good but a little choppy at times, and audio occasionally seemed slightly out of sync. Videos that looked sharp in full-screen mode seemed to degrade in picture quality when shrunk to smaller sizes. Worse, some of the Flash video players' controls were almost impossible to activate, given the tablet's touchscreen interface.

Flash lacks a certain touch As I continued my tests, it became clear that these initial problems weren't limited to streaming video. In general, the Flash Player for Android 3.0 does not do a good job of scaling bitmap images. This becomes especially clear when scaling bitmapped text, which becomes blocky and hard to read at small sizes.

The difficulties of navigating Flash UIs on a touchscreen device are increasingly troublesome, and unfortunately they're endemic to the Flash platform. Flash developers are even more likely than traditional Web developers to populate their UIs with rollovers, fancy animations, and aesthetically appealing yet nonstandard controls, none of which work well on a device with a small screen and no mouse.


Originally published on InfoWorld |  Click here to read the original story.
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