Flash, for me, is not something that I miss or want on the iPhone platform. Sure, there are some sites, for movies and maybe the occasional awesome reinvention of a classic game that I wouldn’t mind being able to see on my mobile platform of choice, but overall it’s not something I’m losing sleep over.
If you are losing sleep over it, or if you’re just curious about what Flash on an iDevice would even look and feel like, there’s a couple ways to try it out, one of which is available right now as an app that doesn’t require jailbreaking. The other, which is actually much cooler, is only in preview release right now, but runs in your Safari browser natively without any extra steps required on a user’s part.
Cloud Browse is your first option. It’s an app that connects you to a remote computer running on servers maintained by the Cloud Browse developers, AlwaysOn. The app lets you then control the browsing on the remote computer from your iDevice, and see any type of web content, including Flash. The sites you visit are streamed to your phone, but there is some trade off as you might expect.
Video framerate is quite slow, and if you’re not a paying subscriber, you only have a limited number of spots to connect. Free users can also get bumped by paying customers, as in unceremoniously disconnected mid-session. You can get a paid account for $9.99 a month that would give you 30 FPS video and 1GB of storage for saving offline data. Plus you can only use it in the U.S. and Canada, and it only works over Wi-Fi. Finally, playing Flash games with the iPhone’s on-screen keyboard is absolutely no fun.
The other alternative is Smokescreen, which is a web-end tech that developers and designers could use to make their Flash content visible on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. That means that it’s currently far more limited (you can only see it in action in some demos released by the original developer), but that it has much more potential in terms of long-term usability.
Smokescreen operates by a workaround process that isn’t actually a plugin, so it there’s really nothing Apple can do to stop it. Here’s how the process works, as described by its creator Simon Willison:
It runs entirely in the browser, reads in SWF binaries, unzips them (in native JS), extracts images and embedded audio and turns them in to base64 encoded data:uris, then stitches the vector graphics back together as animated SVG.
The experience so far is somewhat hit or miss, with simple animations like those found in Flash banners working very well, but with more advanced things (like a Strongbad email animation) it runs rather slow. Also there was no sound when I tested it on my iPhone 3GS, which I assume is a limitation of the method used.
Both these workarounds are a prime example of how if people really want their device to do something, they’ll figure out a way.