Skyfire 2.0 for iPhone


Skyfire Labs aims to bring Flash to the Flash-less Apple iPhone with its $2.99 Skyfire Web browser app. By processing video in the cloud, Skyfire enables iDevices to play Flash as HTML5 video. Clearly there's plenty of demand for such a browser—it was quickly pulled from the App Store upon "selling out" on its first day. So is Skyfire a must-have app for Flash-hungry entertainment-seekers? Only for a select few who demand video outside of the iPhone's YouTube app. The video watching experience is a mixed bag that fluctuates from butter smooth to frustratingly slow and choppy.
Setup and Interface
Skyfire is actually a wrapper for the iPhone's built-in Safari browser, which shuttles content processed on the company's servers to deliver Flash content. Skyfire boasts that its approach saves battery life, compresses data by 75 percent, and uses Adaptive streaming to help mobile devices feed the information over slow connections.
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After downloading Skyfire, the app issued a warning that it contains age-restricted material, presumably because it taps the entire Web, including adult content. As such, the App Store has given it a 17+ label due to "frequent/intense sexual content or nudity." Upon launching Skyfire, you're presented with a handful of screens that walk you through the app's basics. When I download it to an Apple iPad, I had to tap the "2X" button to blow it up to fill the larger display. It's not as sharp as the screen's capable of, but it's better than nothing. Skyfire states its working on an iPad version of the browser, but no date was given.

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The Browsing Experience
Once you're past those, you're taken to the browser proper. The interface consists of an address bar and search box (which you can use to scour Google, Video, or Wikipedia), a large, dedicated Google Search box, trending phrases ("Veterans Day Quotes," "Gene Shalit"), an ad banner, and then links to Featured Sites, which ran the gamut from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to NASCAR.
I was in the mood for some laughs, so I tapped the Daily Show link, which loaded's standard homepage (not the mobile site) in just under 50 seconds over office's Wi-Fi network. The page was naturally a bit cramped on the iPhone's relatively small display, but a small window appeared within the page which I tapped to play the Flash clip. After Skyfire formatted the video for the iPhone browser (which took just under 15 seconds), it played back smoothly without any skipping.
Unfortunately, this viewing experience wasn't consistent. Video content on took what seemed an eternity to load, and I was unable to view Hulu content; a dialog box appeared stating that "Hulu is not making videos available on mobile browsers." Some videos just flashed black and white and wouldn't load at all.
Skyfire can also launch URLs you've copied from an email or another app. It worked flawlessly; when I copied a link sent to me by a coworker, then launched Skyfire, a menu appeared that asked if I wanted to visit that URL. I would've liked an option to "Open in Skyfire" while pressing the link sent to me, but that may be more a functional limitation of iOS than Skyfire itself.
Skyfire Toolbar
The Skyfire toolbar, located at the foot of the browser, has icons, that when tapped, let me bookmark pages, open a blank Skyfire page, and hide or reveal the pop-up window that launches videos. The double wave icon served up related content based on what I was viewing (such as a The Daily Show fan page), or let me enter a search term to search for content myself.
The "+" icon on the far right of the toolbar let me bookmark pages, and share them via e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter—a nice touch for sharing with friends without leaving the app. I used this option to also sign into Facebook to check messages, and comments left on my Wall, which was an unexpected find in an app that pushes streaming video entertainment.
Should You Get Skyfire 2.0 for iPhone?
Perhaps if the app were free, we'd be a little more forgiving of its inconsistent browsing experience, but once money comes into play, one expects more. And $2.99 is at the upper end of popular iPhone app pricing. Still, if you crave Flash video beyond what can be found using the iPhone's YouTube app—and accept the fact that there will be some playback problems—it's a worthwhile download.a