Adobe's Flash Player for Android has topped a million downloads on the Market. Someone break out the special occasion custom label champagne. I really don't mean to be crass about Flash - but I can't help it.

Flash is the single most overhyped piece of software available for Android today, there's little in the way of getting around that statement. What has led me to such a conclusion? If the website of a restaurant I'm looking at on Yelp (an awesome piece of Android software) runs on a Flash interface, I just close the window. I have a Nexus One, it has Flash, and it runs CyanogenMod 6. There aren't many phones better tailored to run Flash than the N1 (which was presumably the hardware platform Adobe used in developing Flash for Android), but I rarely ever find myself actually happy that Flash is available to me.

There are notable exceptions: YouTube videos that have not yet been converted for mobile (non-Flash) playback, and... Wait, that's actually the only exception. I am never happy to see a Flash-based advertisement appear on a web page, so I've turn my Plug-In options to "On Demand" in the browser. Half of the Flash content I try to load ends up causing so much CPU load that (if it's a video) it skips along at 2-3 frames a second, or (if it's interactive) takes twenty furious finger stabs to acknowledge an action.


Flash For Android: Not As Advertised

This causes me frustration. Was Steve Jobs right about Flash? No, I didn't think he was, and I still don't. Flash is not an obsolete platform, and it's not going to be made useless by HTML5 or h.264 video. Flash is such a ubiquitous part of the web today that Adobe will put all the financial might it can behind ensuring it remains relevant. Flash is not, however, so omnipresent  in the world of the mobile web. Mobile-optimized Flash content is almost non-existent. Flash content developed specifically for mobile devices actually is non-existent. This is a problem.

Adobe has pushed the interoperability of Flash on both PC and Android as yet another reason Flash is just so awesome. I buy into this, but from a very, very narrow perspective. I don't want the PC web on my phone. My PC has a 21-inch widescreen monitor that sits one foot from my face. My PC is powered by a quad-core processor, 8GB of RAM, and a video card with 1GB of GDDR5 memory. Flash content can still take several seconds to load - and isn't always as responsive as would be ideal.

I do not want, or expect, Flash content designed for a PC to work on my phone. It has a tiny 3.7" screen, no mouse cursor, and a system-on-a-chip processor clocked at 1GHz. I want Flash to do one thing on my phone: automatically reformat PC-style Flash content into a usable mobile format.

Flash for Android doesn't do this (it does the latter, I know). Why not? Because it's a huge endeavor; how do you make something so specifically designed to appear in a certain way on a PC browser automatically transform into a mobile version? You make a tool for developers that makes it easy - incorporate it with Flash Professional as a free add-on, and make the tool smart enough that it creates a basic mobile optimized "template" that at least allows mobile viewers to interact with your content (perhaps a standardized Flash for Android video player?!).

I'm not a programmer, I don't know how to get there - and I imagine what I'm asking is hugely difficult. But it's about the only way I ever see Flash being remotely useful on a phone. A tablet, on the other hand, may be where Adobe's brainchild has a chance to shine - if it doesn't run at the speeds I'm getting on my Nexus One.

Questions? Comments? Think I'm a total jerk for hating on Flash? Comment below, I'm always glad to stir up a debate.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Gadgetman

    Get a life.... Even a clue would help. There's even Flash on your posting. Maybe your advertisers should listen to your position, and withdraw their support.

    • David Ruddock

      Thanks for the constructive criticism.

      • Gadgetman

        Constructive...... well, I run several websites with flash. Flash Forms, Flash Menus, and Flash is all over the internet. I enjoy Flash in my Android Based Browsers like Dolphin Browser HD. The iPhone didn't allow that and that's why I switched to the HTC EVO.

        Didn't mean to be negative, I just couldn't believe what I was reading from an 'Editor' on a site (Android Police) that carries Flash Advertising and has a Flash Ad on this articles page. Ironic.......

      • Keefers

        WTF? I agree with Gadgetman. Who paid you to write that crap?

  • Aaron Gingrich

    I've no qualms with Flash, personally. I like having it actually... you know, work. I never use mobile versions of websites and it actually makes a difference to me that I can see the same thing whether I'm on my phone or my PC.

  • giggity

    Porn. 'nuff said.

    • David Ruddock

      I'll give you that one.

  • Shmoopty

    I am on the same platform and I have seen some video run at a very low framerate, but nowhere near "half", as the author experiences. Although I don't know how my browsing differs from his.

    I've never, however, experienced the "twenty furious finger stabs" problem.

    I think those are the only concrete complaints given, but I don't see how not having flash available to you would improve those scenarios.

    • http://zalzalaweb.com/jens anakin78z

      Yea, usually video plays very well for me (I'd argue that I have more success streaming flash video than I do streaming non flash video... "This video can not be played", anyone?), and while the frame rates aren't always rock solid, it very much seems to depend on the stream, and some are better than others, but I have that same problem on my 3 year old laptop.

  • Kevin

    Ok, fine. No flash for you. Fair 'nuff. Just keep away from all of the AIR apps that are now just starting to come down the pipe.

    Adobe AIR - a flash technology - was just released for flash 10.1 equipped phones on October 8th.

    I'm wondering if maybe it's the customization that you're doing to your phone that's causing the problems and not flash? I've got my phone rooted, sure, but am running the stock sense on my EVO and have no problems.

  • http://zalzalaweb.com/jens anakin78z

    It's funny, I see all these negative comments about Flash on Android all over the web, but I just don't get it. Is it perfect? No, but damn, it's a heck of a lot better than the alternative.
    The menu sites you mention above are a PERFECT example of why I like flash on my phone. Before, I would have no way of seeing the menu. Now I can.

    "Flash content developed specifically for mobile devices actually is non-existent. This is a problem."
    Well, I would argue that Kongregate has a bunch of games that are designed for mobile, or at least work great on it. Fat Slice Mobile (it even says mobile) was one of my favorite games on my phone until I finished it.

    And then this happened on Tuesday:
    My friend looks down at a message on his iPhone and tells us that they're pulling the first Chillean miner up. We didn't have a TV nearby, so I pulled out my Nexus One. A few seconds later I was on cnn.com, streaming the event live. Now how can I complain about that?

    • David Ruddock

      Live streaming for sites that aren't YouTube is one legit use; but frankly I very rarely stream non-YouTube video on my phone. Mostly because it's a hassle, performance is questionable, and it's a battery eater.

      As far as the games, I find one example to be kind of a technical out to my statement about Flash content developed for mobile. The Flash-enabled internet is a big place.

      • http://zalzalaweb.com/jens anakin78z

        A 'technical out'? What is it with these whiny opinion pieces on Android Police these days? You and Aaron should get together and hold hands or something.

        Quite frankly I'm tired of hearing about performance and battery on these matters. Keeping your phone's battery out of the phone is a perfect way to make that charge last. If you're worried about taxing the hardware, you might as well uninstall all games, too.
        The great thing about Flash on Android is that it enables us to do things that we weren't able to do before. I'm not sure what you were expecting from the experience, but it has been mostly positive for me (you might really want to try it on a stock phone). Yes, occasionally it's hard to push the button you're trying to push. But overall, I'm able to play games, watch video, and navigate news stites (and lots of other sites) in a way that I couldn't before on my phone. And god forbid we see some ads... it's not like anyone who gives us all this free content needs to be paid.
        One final thing I'll say is that once I got flash on my phone I realized one thing: The mobile web is boring and static. With flash, suddenly things were moving, and web pages were more alive. Interacting with something on the page didn't require me to leave that page. It's a much better experience overall.

        • http://zalzalaweb.com/jens anakin78z

          Damn your lack of an edit button! The You & Aaron comment was probably out of line. Sorry.

          Edit: weird, I can edit this one...

  • http://blog.swfjunkie.com Sandro

    First off, i'm a flash developer and thereby kinda biased to begin with :) i do however not defend the platform for many its obvious shortcomings.

    I have to say you are right for the most part but you also kinda cherry picked some of the worst the flash platform has to offer: Banner Ads and Restaurant websites :) "The scum of flash" as i like to call it.

    There is a reason why even normal websites tend to have a mobile counterpart to it, to deliver an optimised experience to the users and now that flash is available, it is time for us devs to actually build content which will run optimal for those devices.

    In all honesty i am actually suprised at how well the flash player runs on those minimal devices (having a HTC Desire myself) considering that 98% of all Flash content currently out there is actually built specifically for full blown desktop machines.

    So yeah, at the moment most content sucks, is slow, lags, needs lots of prodding but guess what, the idea you bring up about an add-on to flash professional to create mobile content via a template? Adobe actually provides their developers with a toolkit for that already, pretty nice of them huh? ;)

    So yeah, i'm sure flash content will "soonish" become mobile optimized and since Adobe just released AIR for Android as well, the flash developer community is stoked at the new possibilites.

    Sadly though, there is still no tool that is going to save us all from badly programmed flash content (or any bad content for that matter). So yeah, there will still be some suffering regardless :) but hey, that's life right?

    Oh and just so i said it, The Flash Player and the AIR Runtime really should be movable to the SD , the size of these things is just unbearable for the internal phone storage on most devices. Here's hoping they change that soon.

    Cheers from Switzerland

    • David Ruddock

      Interesting perspective. I do agree that Flash runs well enough on these devices that it *is* impressive - but impressive in the world of Flash is depressing to me. 2-3FPS may be an exaggeration (perhaps 10), but I feel like interactive Flash is Flash for Android's biggest failing.

      But I agree, as content catches up to support mobility, it will get better, but right now I just don't see all the hype amounting to much, Flash just doesn't do anything all that great on Android.

  • John

    Go and cuddle up to Jobs, that's another looser.

    • Aaron Gingrich


      You winner, you.

  • dog sevil

    Flash is great on the Nexus one. I use it to watch porn and it works fantastic!

    Mobile flash is not perfect, and it may never be, but it does do some things well.

    Think of it as a step in the right direction.

  • hrothgar

    I am never, ever, ever HAPPY to encounter flash, even on the desktop. Flash sucks. It is a hassle and an annoyance. And yes, of course, it is an even bigger hassle on my Nexus one.

    However, I am very very happy to have flash AVAILABLE on my Nexus one, for the times when I need to use it to see a flash only web site on the go (oddly, flash-only restaurant websites are my major example here). Yes this is painful. It is in the same category as lots of things that I can do with my cellphone that are necessarily painful but which sometimes I still need to do and am glad I can. Using google docs to look at a giant spreadsheet on the go. Typing out a long email. Reading a long pdf.

    This is one of the reasons I got rid of my iphone, I don't need Steve Jobs deciding this for me.

    • http://www.focuszonedevelopment.com Aaron

      +1; I don't use Flash (I'm on a lowly G1) and I have yet to notice that I'm missing anything significant. I usually don't even install it on my desktops until I absolutely need it, and it's usually one of the first things I uninstall when I go through my installed programs list to clean up unused application bloat.

      Flash has justifiable uses, but sadly, most common uses of Flash do not fall in those categories.

    • David Ruddock

      I will say I have found myself using it on flash-only restaurant sites sometimes. But more often than not now, I just end up not going through the painful process - hitting the flash menu links is a real pain on a 3.7" screen, and the strike zone never seems to line up right.

  • Alex

    only issue I have with flash is that search sites can't index information contained within flash

  • David Ruddock

    A lot of interesting (and some... less than interesting) replies so far. I'm really curious as to what people find they use Flash for on a regular basis.

    In fact, I'd love to write an article espousing how people use Flash and why they find it useful.

    I clearly am not of the opinion that it is useful or necessary to the Android experience as it currently exists, but I see there is quite a strong sentiment coming from the opposite side as well.

    Thanks for those of you who posted (civil) replies, like I said, I appreciate the debate - I'm going to answer some of these individually.

    • Keefers

      David. Are you still using windows 98 and Motorola.Q9?

  • http://D2global.com D2GlobalInc

    With flash comes adobe AIR and that allows me to reuse our web apps on mobile devices without rewriting one line of code. Saving us so much money and time I don't need separate devs just for the mobile devices..so I dance a jig for finally having the full flash plugin on android!!

    Also I do use an iPad until a good android replacement comes avail. And I can tell you, I lost count of times I really wished I had flash and had to flag something to read or watch later on my pc.. Or pull it up on my evo. ;)

  • RJ7855

    I love Flash on my N1, I´ve put it on demand so it doesn´t load (ads) by default but it´s great to have on the moment you need it.

  • lizka

    I hate flash and i do not like Adobe pushing it everywhere.

    To be honest i would be pleased if i can choose in what format i see the video files being displayed. Right now itś purely flash. Also the websites.. if you want to visit some website using the phone, like check address or something, then when itś flash based You can´t !!!! How stupid the webmasters are to make only one version of the website for the company/business.

  • Vincent

    You must not have ever tried out the browser on the Nokia N900. A HUGE difference between the Android version of Flash. There is a mouse cursor mode available as well as Keyboard support (In the Flash Window I might add.)

    If you question Flash on a mobile device, I highly recommend you pick up this device and give it a go.

    Loaded up newgrounds.com and was playing Flash based games that required a Keyboard and Mouse without any Hassle :)

    Granted on Flash 9.4 w/out Hardware Acceleration, some things can be choppy, but most everything is usable :)