Hands-on with Flash 10.1 for Android 2.2 (And Only 2.2)
After months and months of promises, we’ve finally got our hands on Adobe’s Flash Player 10.1 for mobile devices using a Nexus One.
First things first for Android phone owners (and shoppers): Flash 10.1 Player will only work on Android 2.2, so you’re going to have to wait for Google to roll out that update for your Droid. But, it should work: Adobe says that the player will be compatible with ARM11, Cortex A8 and A9, Intel Atom, and Nvidia Tegra processors. So that means owners of the Nexus One, Moto Droid, HTC Evo, Incredible, Desire, Milestone, and Galaxy will all be happy campers–eventually. As of this writing, there’s been no info as to when Android 2.2 will be rolled out to any of those devices.
Aside from the obvious benefit of being able to play videos and games, Flash 10.1 Player will only render video shown on screen, use H.264 hardware acceleration, and decrease RAM use by 50%, according to Adobe. The company estimates that the Nexus One will last approximately 3 hours playing H.264 video over 3G, and 4 hours playing low-impact Flash games.
In order to test how well Flash works on mobile platforms, we performed both objective and anecdotal tests. For the former, we used Cameron Adams’ benchmarks, which compares Flash to HTML, Canvas (HTML5) and SVG. The benchmark itself couldn’t be more basic: a bunch of colored balls bouncing around a white screen, and a little counter in the corner measures framerates. With Flash 10.1, we saw a large improvement in frames per second over other formats.
Gaming (and multitouch)
As any Facebooker knows, Flash is the lifeblood for casual games on the Internet. So, we tried our hand at some titles on Kongregate, Nickelodeon, and South Park Studios, and found that all worked pretty well.
In “Blackbeard’s Island,” we were able to easily point our cannon where we wanted to shoot, and the cannon balls flew smoothly across the screen. Spongebob’s “Invasion of the Patty Snatchers,” and “Fairly Odd Parents: Shear Madness” were also fun titles to play, and the characters zipped around the screen with ease.
Allaying some of Steve Jobs’ concerns about Flash, the 10.1 Player includes support for multitouch, gestures, and accelerometers. While the games we played didn’t rely too heavily on pinching and zooming, pressing on-screen buttons was fairly easy. The South Park Studios Avatar creator let us swipe quickly through different clothes, hair, and eyebrows, although we couldn’t figure out how to save our creation.
Gaming sites that are currently optimized for Flash 10.1 mobile include Kongregate, Nickelodeon, Miniclip, South Park Studios, and Armor Games.
For the most part, Flash videos we watched came through fairly well. Over 3G, a trailer for “SALT” on Sony Pictures web site exhibited minor pixilation and a little lag with audio, but action was smooth with no stuttering.
Highlight clips from the NHL.com Video Center worked well over Wi-Fi, but in some cases, audio started playing before video. Once everything was synced, though, it was very smooth, even at full screen. However, the on-screen controls (play/pause, volume, etc.) were impossible to press, which we found to be a recurring theme on a number of sites, such as National Geographic’s. Ironically, when we wanted to watch a video of Alpacas being shaved for their hair to mop up the oil spill, we had to use pinch-to-zoom to blow up the video to more than full screen in order to press the “full screen” button.
Other sites that streamed video well included the New York Times and YouTube HQ. On the latter, a recital of a kid playing Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” was smooth and in sync, and colors were even warmer than with the Evo 4G. We also liked that the on-screen controls were large and easy to press.
Of course, those sites are set up for mobile streaming; on other sites that aren’t as prepared, the experience was underwhelming. While we liked that NBC and CBS automatically directed us to their mobile sites, and that there were large on-screen controls, clips did not expand to full-screen (there was a black border all around it). Also, video was pixilated, and sound quality was tinny and wasn’t in sync, even over Wi-Fi. And of course, Hulu videos won’t play, either, owing to DRM restrictions that the site has with the studios. We got a “loading” circle that never goes away. We tried using both the built-in browser and Dolphin, but to no avail.
Video sites that are currently optimized for Flash 10.1 Player include BBC, BET, Blip TV, FIFA World Cup, NBA Video, NHL Video Center, TBS, TNT, Sky Sports, and the Wall Street Journal Online. So if you want to get your fix of The Closer, you’re all set.
We’re still working on battery life figures but Flash 10.1 Player works pretty well. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem that many sites are in a hurry to make their players touch or mobile friendly, and a lot of the content we’d want to access is unavailable.
Stay tuned for more test results and an exciting video!