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Flash-friendly iPhone browser 'sold-out' within hours

Skyfire proving popular with handset owners

A mobile web browser called Skyfire, made by Skyfire Labs, which promises to transcode web-based Flash video on the fly to an iPhone-friendly format, has sold-out.

"Within five hours, Skyfire for iPhone became the top grossing app, the third highest paid app overall and the top application in the Utilities category," Skyfire Labs said in a blog.

In other words, iPhone users in the US, (the app is not currently available in the UK) were so desperate to watch web-based Flash video on their devices they were willing to pay for the privilege in large numbers. Skyfire Labs was caught off guard by the demand for its services, and the company was forced to stop selling the Skyfire browser on iTunes just hours after the app debuted.

"The user experience was performing well for the first few hours," Skyfire said. "But as the [iPhone] surge continued, the peak load on our servers and bandwidth caused the video experience to degrade." The Skyfire browser apparently relies on the company's back end servers to transcode Flash video from the web before sending it back to your iPhone.

"We are effectively 'sold out' and will temporarily not accept new purchases from the App Store," the company said. "We are working really hard to increase capacity and will be accepting new purchases from the App Store as soon as we can support it."

Earlier this year, Apple CEO Steve Jobs made it clear that his company is not interested in making the iPhone compatible with Flash video. In an open letter entitled, 'Thoughts on Flash', Apple's chief pointed to several reasons he wanted to avoid Flash on the iPhone including security problems, reliability and Flash's poor battery performance on mobile devices.

Thoughts on Flash effectively killed any hopes that Flash would ever make it onto iOS devices. The letter followed years of speculation and grappling between the two companies about whether the Web's most popular video format, Flash, would one day be available to iPhone users.

Other smartphone makers, however, are embracing Flash with open arms. One of the big selling points for Google's Android OS 2.2 (Froyo) was that it would be compatible with Flash version 10.1 for smartphones. There is also some speculation that Flash will eventually make an appearance on Windows Phone 7.

Whatever the fate of Flash on other platforms, the immediate popularity of Skyfire for iPhone suggests that a good number of iPhone users really do want Flash on their handset.

I have reached out to both Adobe and Apple for comment, and will update this story if I hear back from either company.

See also: Google Instant comes to Android, iPhone


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