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Adobe Flash + Android: Certified, But Not Perfect

Motorola Xoom: The First Android 3.1 (Honeycomb) Tablet

Apple has its reasons to support HTML5 instead of Flash. Let’s face it; Flash tends to be a performance hog. If you’re concerned with battery life, that’s a trait you want to avoid. On the other hand, Flash is the most dominant form of streaming video, and it’s here to stay.

Google and Adobe want to exploit Apple’s shift towards HTML5, but Flash support progresses at a snail’s pace. Earlier this year, Google launched Honeycomb without Flash support. This frustrated many users because they bought Android devices with the expectation it'd be there. Worse, the non-beta versions of Flash had spotty compatibility.

Android Honeycomb + Flash 10.3
The Colbert Report

A month ago, Adobe gave us a hint that it was about to release Flash 10.3, the first non-beta version for Android. I have been tracking Flash since 10.1 beta, so I was keen to test out a final build. After a month of testing, I can’t help but feel disappointed. I tried out Flash on multiple Web sites, but found support to be haphazard. That fact is even more of a bummer because Adobe lists the Xoom as a certified device.


Hulu, ESPN, and Vimeo don’t work. YouTube works well, but other Web sites have a few quirks. For example, I can only watch CBS episodes if I open them in a video player. I can watch The Colbert Report in full-screen mode, but it kills responsiveness. I can’t even hit pause or exit full-screen mode without waiting 10 seconds because there’s a lag in registering a gesture. This also applies to windowed Flash video. For example, you can’t scroll and watch video on CNN without dropping frames and getting a stuttered scrolling action.

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If you try to navigate while Flash video plays, performance can get so bad that artifacts appear.

Overall, Flash support continues to be flawed on Android. We're hoping that Adobe addresses these issues in 10.4, but we're not holding our breath. The company is already late with the software we already expected to see. And if there isn't a way to optimize further, completely fluid Flash video probably won’t be a reality until tablets employ better hardware.

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