Adobe’s Flash 10.2 is scheduled to go live on tomorrow, but thanks to our good friends over at My Droid World, we were able to get our hands on a leaked copy of the latest build and give it a test drive ahead of schedule.
So how does it perform, you ask? Well, it all depends. On the one hand, every flash website that you may have tried to access with your Xoom when you first bought it two weeks ago now works. On the other hand, the majority of these sites require multiple input methods (such as left and right clicks or mouse scrolls), so if you’re using a finger with your touchscreen Xoom, you’re going to run into some problems. With that being said, for the first time on our Motorola Xoom, the joy of Flash games, Flash video, and interactive websites was at our fingertips.
First up is video, and there is some good news to report on this front. We tried out a number of video websites, and clips played smoothly on all the sites we tried. From ABC.com to Youtube, you name it, we played it. Video quality was good, but the 3G speeds we saw weren’t exactly scorching; on numerous occasions we had to wait a while for videos to buffer. Once they did, playback was excellent.
One downside: When we had multiple tabs open for different videos, only the tab we were in played audio and video. If we jumped to another tab, the audio and video abruptly stopped, only to come back when we brought the tab back to the front.
Another funny thing we noticed on Vevo and Youtube was that it was very difficult—if not impossible—to select the video resolution. When we pressed the resolution button, nothing happened until we lifted our finger, and what did happen—the resolution options flashing for a millisecond and then disappearing—was like a cruel joke without a punchline. Hopefully this issue will be taken care of soon.
As mentioned earlier, it’s one thing to run a Flash game in your browser, but it’s another thing to try and play it on a touchscreen device. Of course, this is difficult, as many online Flash games require a mouse and keyboard. Luckily for us, we had the Motorola Bluetooth keyboard on hand to give some of these games a spin.
One of the simple but cool games we played was iStunt, which can be found on miniclip.com (and in the App Store). It’s a side-scrolling game where users have to navigate the slopes on a snowboard while pulling off tricks and grabbing big air. This game was a breeze to control, and it played well considering it was in the browser. However, it seemed slower than it needed to be. And sure enough, when we fired this game up on a Wi-Fi enabled laptop, it was running much faster and our boarder sped up. Adobe Flash is supposed to take advantage of hardware acceleration, but this game missed the memo, because our rider was not accelerating nearly fast enough.
To try our luck without the keyboard, we fired up a simple paper airplane game. In this game, players have to fling a paper plane and see how far it goes. In theory, this should have been quite easy, but it wasn’t. The website hosting the game isn’t optimized for touch, so it felt like the game was having trouble determining if we were trying to scroll the screen or throw the plane. The same thing occurred with a ping pong game; there was no way for us to control the paddle without a mouse, so the ball just kept dropping to the floor.
We suspect this will be the experience with the majority of browser based flash games until they are coded to recognize touch input (mtv.com/touch, for example). So yes, you can play endless amounts of Flash games, but you’ll be more successful playing with a mouse or keyboard, thus defeating the purpose of buying a touchscreen tablet in the first place.
There is more to Flash than just games and video. It also powers a lot of cool interactive websites. Take, for example, the Hyundai Genesis site, which has a really impressive page that gives users the ability to rotate and zoom around a car and includes snappy visuals and music. If you try going to this site on an iPad, it won’t work, but on the Xoom, you’re free to enter and give it a whirl. Once again, having a mouse will give you maximum control, but you are able to control the car rotation with your fingers. This website is much more resource-intensive than the others we tested, and it looked like our Xoom was using everything it had to run the animations. This resulted in some choppy movement while the car was turning.
Then you have TabnPlay.com, which is a browser-based guitar solution giving web-goers a chance to play chords, learn songs, and view guitar tabs using an interactive guitar. This is one cool website. And best of all, it works really well on the Xoom. The site appears to ignore swipe input and instead acts more like you’re controlling it with a trackpad. This means we were able to strum on the guitar strings with a finger swipe without scrolling the website. How do you actually scroll the site, you ask? Instead of swiping, you have to drag or push with two fingers in a fixed position. And of course, all button presses are picked up. No need for a mouse or keyboard here. Kudos to the team behind this Flash site.
All in all, this is a solid first go for Adobe Flash on Android tablets. Video runs well, gaming is palatable if not solid once you throw in the right peripherals, and all those bulky—but still nevertheless cool-looking—interactive websites are at your Xoom’s disposal. Websites such as Tabnplay.com show where Flash can really shine as well as what browsers can do. That doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done. The experience of running more complicated Flash websites and games is still nowhere near as smooth as it is on a laptop or desktop browser, and developers need to inject some touchscreen love into their apps to make them more mobile-friendly.