Flash 10.1 performance – Apple VS Android

Before I start, spend a few seconds going though the links as you come across them.

The Adobe VS Apple war doesn’t seem to get over. We have seen official websites taking offensive & defensive sides, numerous forums and blogs reasoning their opinion and jokes from presenters at developer conferences (Yes I mean Vic Gundotra at Google I/O 2010). The debate on performance of Flash still seems to be going on and on.

Focus is now on Android, a scale for judging the correctness of Apple/Adobe. While I dont deny the ultimate browsing experience provided on iPhones/iPads, here is my take on Android running Flash.

THE BROWSER :

Apple argues Flash wasn’t allowed on iPhones and iPads since it drastically reduces the performance of their devices. Assuming Apple wasn’t talking about Native Flash / AIR applications, the issue was about having Flash played in their browsers. The majority, who trust Apple by their heart, are led into believing Flash is too heavy to be played on mobile devices.

Have a look at the video below (Google I/O 2010 – Froyo Release) which demonstrates the browser capabilities of Android and iPad. Be reminded, Both the Nexus One and the iPad run on a 1 Ghz chip.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdgG5NNxARo

Well, the video has nothing to do with Flash being played, but it clearly distinguishes the performance of the two browsers. Going by the results of the test, we can safely conclude Apple’s browser is a little ‘slower’ to the one on Android. So while Apple blames Flash for being too heavy on its devices, how well are the iPhone and iPad browsers equipped in case Flash does end up there someday?

Am I telling Apple’s products are incapable of running Flash? No. I am just reasoning Flash’s ability to play seamlessly on Android. Agreed Flash takes time to load. But isn’t that the same on Desktop’s too? To stop you from thinking, remember the loader on YouTube videos. BTW, this is Adobe Flash 10.1 ‘Beta’ playing here.

THE BATTERY :

Lets come back to Apple’s claim, Flash is a battery drainer. Calling it a battery drainer might be misleading. In any case, is Flash hard enough on the battery to be blocked entirely? Read on…

Flash is meant to deliver rich content such as Streaming Videos and Games, interacting with the user via mouse, keyboard, microphone, camera and touch (Yes Touch). To tag Flash as a battery drainer, Apple is comparing Flash with less capable technologies. Flash is processor intensive due to the rich content rendered, which is not possible by other technologies (I’ll come to HTML 5 in a minute).

I’ll pen down a few stats I picked up from Ryan Stewart’s Blog which shows the battery drain with Flash.

Phone Used: Nexus One – 3G, Only Browser Loaded.

Video : Format H.264 baseline level 2.1 at 30 FPS. Resolution – 480 x 270
Full Brightness
Without Flash : 3 hours and 45 minutes
With Flash : 3 hours and 8 minutes

Half Brightness
Without Flash : 3 hours 56 minutes
With Flash : 3 hours and 31 minutes

Gaming :
Tic-Tac-Toe : Battery Lasted 6 hours and 49 minutes
Alchemist : Battery Lasted 7 hours and 7 minutes

Animation : HTML 5 VS Flash
HTML 5 : 6.7 FPS – 3.1 hours
Flash : 24 FPS – 2.9 hours

The difference – Marginal, especially with Animation, considering the capabilities of Flash. Does 30 minutes of extra video justify blocked Flash content?

HTML 5 ? Flash :

Apple answers critics saying HTML 5 is the new technology to be followed, Flash is on its way out. But I think capabilities of HTML 5 is far from that of Flash. HTML 5 can play videos and animations, but the richness is limited. HTML 5 features like Canvas, local storage, and Web Workers allow web applications to function like desktop applications. Incredible. But Flash too is capable of using these APIs, and we are a long way off HTML being able to able to natively replace Flash applications (And again, there’re bound to be browser compatibility issues with IE around, not that it matters on a Apple device). None of which are issues with Flash / AIR. BTW, did vector graphics cross your mind?

For videos, there’s the H.264 format HTML 5 is capable of playing. H.264 is surely going to make it big in the coming days, but did I hear Mozilla will not be supporting H.264 due to patenting and licencing issues? IE doesn’t support it currently either ! And there is Flash, which supports H.264, FLV, MP4, M4V, 3GPP, Quicktime, etc.

Here is a wonderful explanation from Mike Chambers.

That being said, is Apple still expecting Flash to be on its way out?

A post from TechTree says, Flash 10.1 Slows Down Nexus One.
If you go through the post, the base for their test is, Android takes time to load Flash content. Hence Slower. Let me point out where they have gone terribly wrong,

  • A HTML page, probably HTML 5, has been compared to a Flash website.
  • Loading time for a Flash websites (SWF File) is no way to judge the performance of the website itself. The SWF file is downloaded before being played, as with HTML files. The difference being, HTML loads different pages as and when required, but Flash doesn’t work that way !

They have quoted PocketNow, which has done a series of tests on Flash performance on Android. Unlike PocketNow, TechTree has based its results only on the loading time, the first test conducted by PocketNow. Such posts only mislead.

On reading this, its possible that you aren’t entirely convinced Flash needs to be allowed on Mobile Devices. Flash IS an overhead (a worthwhile overhead), and Google recognizes it too. Flash is provided as an option in Android, allowing the user to turn on/off Flash on its devices.

Why isn’t Apple considering that option? They are more worried about reliability, security, proprietary issues and the touch experience.
Read More

Genuine enough?
Here is an Answer by the people who built Flash and carry an iPhone.

BTW, I have already pointed out the Touch experience on Flash.

Popular websites such as YouTube, Google Analytics, Facebook use Flash. Are the millions of similar sites that use Flash bound to have an alternate option to run on Apple’s products?
Are the iPhone / iTouch / iPad owners bound to stay away from Flash?
Finally, are iPhone developers bound to pay 30% of their income to Apple for all the days to come?

And for those iPhone / iTouch / iPad owners who WANT to run flash, there’s this wonder called SmokeScreen 🙂

PS.,

  • I have a gut feeling, the performance of Android will really be tested only once the AIR Runtime’s are released.
  • Yes, I do not support Apple’s decision to dump Flash. I have come across a handful of reasons for that, and that’s because I spend all day working on Adobe’s platforms. In case you disagree with my opinions, you are welcome to post your comments.

— Update 18/12/2010 —

Tried and Tested, AIR apps built for Android run the way Flash applications are supposed to run.
No Lags, No Performance Issues, with amazing Quality !

Adobe Flash Platform Summit
Coping with incompatible browsers



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