on flash on the iPhone / iPod Touch

There’s much wringing of hands about the announcement from Apple that the iPhone (and iPod Touch) would not be getting Flash in the foreseeable future. I’m actually pretty happy that Flash isn’t on the way. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good Flash website or video as much as the next guy.

But try this: on your Mac, open Activity Monitor. Let it process for a few seconds to get a baseline reading. Then, open a Flash website. Watch the change in Activity Monitor. On my 8-core Xeon Mac Pro system, a Flash website easily chews through 50% of a 3 GHz core – over a gigahertz of CPU without breaking a sweat.

That’s more CPU than is available on my iPod Touch, which only sports an embedded 400MHz Arm chip and 128MB of RAM. And, even if the Touch could muster up the horsepower to run a Flash site, it would suck the battery dry pretty quickly, and crank out more heat than would be healthy for the little device.

No Flash? No big deal. I don’t think it’s an evil conspiracy, nor a ploy to force Adobe to cater to Apple. It’s a decision based on something very simple and pragmatic: adding Flash would detract from the overall iPhone / iPod Touch user experience. People would start complaining about crappy battery performance, overheating iPhones, and sluggish UI responses. Better to just say no to Flash (at least in the current incarnation) and find a better way. For video, the iPhone chipset can handily decode higher quality (but non-Flash) video without breaking a sweat.

I’m hopeful that tomorrow’s SDK announcement is going to bring some very cool stuff. I’m also hopeful that whatever apps are made available (even if Flash is one of them) that I won’t have to worry about battery life when running them.

5 thoughts on “on flash on the iPhone / iPod Touch”

  1. Flash to begin with does not run very well on Mac OS X – it’s too CPU intensive and doesn’t have the optimizations that exist in the Windows version (I believe some of it had to do with GDI/DirectX but I can’t remember with certainty).

    Personally I’m more than fine without Flash. I find Flash 99/100 is for ads – but then again perhaps that is throwing out the baby with the bathwater – after all I love photophlow. However I would never use photophlow on my iPod touch even if I could.

  2. Hi Micheal – Neil from photophlow here. Actually our UI is entirely HTML/CSS/Javascript. We do use Flash if it’s available for sound and network communication, but the site works fine without it. In fact there’s no reason it shouldn’t work on an iPhone, although currently it crashes the browser.

  3. Hi Neil,

    I apologize for my rather gross error. I guess it’s a testament to how well it flows to assume it’s a Flash application. (Very well made Flash application I mean – there are many that are well… laggy).

  4. Ok clearly you have no idea how flash works. you could have a million cores that all ran at 50ghz and you would see the same thing, by default flash content is not limited very well. it uses as much as is available to update it self as fast as possible. it runs great on the T-mobile G1 because if there are less resources available it automatically scales. Now I’m not saying it does it well but well enough mostly. Adobe has tweaked performance quite a bit over the years and will continue to do so but it’s still good enough for my 400mhz pocket pc running linux. there is no hardware reason it can’t run on the iphone and ipod touch.

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