Mobile Flash a Lesson in Disappointment

Adobe has been promising Flash Player for mobile devices for some time, and now that a version is finally available for Google’s Android 2.2 platform, it seems the company has failed to deliver. While the player can handle videos that have been reencoded for mobile devices just fine, it stutters, chokes and stalls on Flash video content encoded for desktop and laptop computers, according to LAPTOP.

Flash Player 10.1 comes pre-installed on the Droid 2, a new smartphone that runs Google’s Android 2.2 operating system, marking the first time what Adobe is calling a full-featured Flash Player for mobile devices is not only available, but is also ready to go without any downloads out of the box.

Thanks to the Adobe Flash Showcase, available in Google’s Android Market, Droid 2 users can see some great examples of Flash Player at its best, complete with smooth movies and great images. Moving outside the showcase examples Adobe presents, however, reveals a very different Flash-on-smartphone experience.

LAPTOP found that streaming Flash-based TV shows from many Web sites, such as, were jerky and choppy, although still viewable. Other sites, however, such as and, failed to load shows and returned errors.

The problem appears to be that in order for video to stream smoothly — or in some cases, even at all — the Flash content needs to be reencoded for mobile devices. Unfortunately for Adobe, one of the features the company touted with the release of Flash 10.1 was that the same Flash video files would play equally well on desktop computers as well as mobile devices.

Flash-based games didn’t fare much better. Many games simply aren’t playable on mobile devices with touch interfaces because there isn’t any way to duplicate keyboard and mouse actions. LAPTOP’s findings proved that Apple CEO Steve Jobs was right when he said that Flash code has to be modified to work properly on touch-based devices.

“Most Flash websites need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices,” he said.

Flash performance on the Droid 2 doesn’t bode well for Adobe’s argument that its multimedia plaform should be supported on all devices, nor will it help convince Apple to allow Flash playback on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

The two companies were publicly sparring earlier this year over Apple’s stance that Flash Player doesn’t have any place on its iOS-based devices. Instead, Apple is supporting HTML5 and CSS3 for Web interfaces and streaming media.

While Flash Player 10.1 for Android looks to be a good start in bringing the “full Flash experience” to mobile devices, it may be too late. Developers that find they have to reencode their Flash videos for yet another device may be more likely to jump ship to HTML5, and those that have to rewite their apps to support touch interfaces may look to other platforms, too.

That’s exactly what Mr. Jobs has been expecting, and it seems that it’s Adobe that’s proving him right.