November 11, 2013 at 12:43 p.m. PST
Apple’s rejection of Adobe Flash is notorious. Although Flash is not directly supported by Safari, the Photon web browser for iOS supports Flash content on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.
Photon is a web browser available in the App Store for less than $5. The popular and highly rated app allows users to enjoy a cloud-based Flash experience. While this isn’t as good as native Flash (on a desktop computer), it works surprisingly well.
No Flash on iOS?
The lack of Adobe Flash on Apple’s iOS mobile operating system has been a talking point amongst tech pundits. At one point, it was used to prove the superiority of competing mobile operating systems — until Adobe stopped making Flash for all mobile devices. Flash didn’t work well on mobile devices and was never modified to work with touch screens. Adobe finally threw in the towel and stopped developing Flash for mobile devices. After this resignation, the tech pundits never admitted that Apple was right all along. The talking point simply evaporated.
Before Adobe stopped making the mobile Flash player, Apple rejected their attempts to bring Flash to iOS. Steve Jobs saw the demo and felt it wasn’t up to snuff. In fact, Flash was the leading cause of crashes on Mac OS X. As an OS X user, I can attest to the fact that Flash is the buggiest thing on a Mac. It still is. Flash is also a vector for malware. Flash for iOS would have also decreased battery life and performance.
Beyond the bugs, Adobe had no solid plans to make Flash work with touch screens. With HTML 5 on the horizon, able to handle interactive content, Apple rejected Adobe’s attempt. Apple and Microsoft rejected Blu-Ray for similar reasons. It was seen as a temporary solution until streaming and downloading HD video became the standard practice.
I have actually witnessed the native Flash plugin on other mobile operating systems. For the most part, it was a gruesome experience. Only a few devices could do the basics — play video without lag. Forget about complicated Flash games. They just didn’t work on any mobile operating system. Flash is a resource hog.
Photon Supports Adobe Flash
iOS users in need of Flash found a solution in the Photon browser. The iOS app streams a Flash session from the cloud. Basically, Photon’s servers run the Flash content as a proxy, and send back a video stream to the iOS app. Photon’s Flash experience is fully interactive. You can actually play video games. Photon supports a toolbar and gestures which allow user interaction. When the user interacts with the Flash content, data are sent to the proxy server, which carries out the action.
Photon is not perfect. Don’t expect the same Flash experience that you would enjoy on your desktop computer. That said, it works better than the native Flash plugin that Adobe developed for mobile operating systems. Let’s face it, Flash is not very good. It’s buggy and crashes a lot. In addition to Apple, Netflix also avoided Flash, and opted to use Microsoft’s Silverlight technology instead.
I have used Photon a few times. It’s definitely worth owning. There’s a few Flash stalwarts that refuse to make their content available to devices that don’t support Flash. Photon is a highly rated app that provides a reasonably good Flash experience on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. For the most part, Flash is a dying technology. For only $4.99, Photon is a good way to bridge the gap until everyone has moved to HTML 5. This could take some time…
Use Photon to Play Adobe Flash
Photon is extremely easy to use. Once you have purchased the app, click on the icon to launch it. When you first arrive at a site that uses Flash, you’ll typically see a message that Flash is not supported on this device.
Simply tap the Flash button on Photon’s toolbar and you’ll have the Flash version running. When the Flash session begins, a new toolbar appears. By tapping on the options you can select how to interact with the Flash player.
This solves the problem of using Flash on a touch screen, however, it’s a bit cumbersome. Flash content is just not suited for mobile devices. It’s designed to be used with a mouse or trackpad. Photon does a good job of enabling the touch screen to work with Flash.
Photon has a lot of settings, which may seem intimidating at first. Your Flash experience depends on your Internet connection speed. Photon automatically configures the settings, however, you are free to adjust them. The bandwidth setting is critical to the end-user experience. If you have the speed, you can select a higher number, which will give you sharper images with faster frame rates. If you are experiencing problems, go for a lower number. It won’t look as good, but it will work better.
Other settings let the user optimize photon for video, gaming, or web browsing. The user can switch the Photon engine version. I couldn’t find any documentation about the engine versions, but try using the newest one, v4, which is the default setting. This seems to work the best. Photon also lets the user configure a gaming keyboard. They seemed to have thought of everything. You can even print web pages via AirPrint.
Beyond enabling Flash-based content, Photon is a great browser, and is better than Safari in some ways. Photon even allows the user to have different browsing views, such as split, trio, and PIP (picture in picture).
Overall, Photon is worth owning. I don’t use it a lot, but it has come in handy. I don’t play a lot of Flash games. I get all the video content I need on my Apple TV. I just use it to view those website that have refused to abandon Flash. For this reason, Photon is well worth the $5. If you really use Flash a lot, it’s indispensable.