November 3, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Finally, Flash on the iPhone with SkyFire, But There’s a Catch [Updated]

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The worst thing about the iPhone is that its browser doesn’t run the Flash multimedia plug-in, leaving lots of the web unviewable. This blocks everything from video streaming sites to the statistics chart for this publication, all because Steve Jobs thinks Flash crashes too much (to be fair, he’s far from alone in that sentiment.)

As tends to happen, an app developer has found a way around Apple’s Flash block.

As doesn’t always happen, Apple reportedly approved it for inclusion in the iTunes App Store, according to CNN, so that starting later today (Wednesday), anyone with an iPhone or other iOS device should finally be able to hear Flash audio and view Flash video, including all of those YouTube videos embedded on music blogs, for starters, without opening the devices’ native YouTube apps, for $3.

When you encounter Flash media embedded in a website on your iPhone, SkyFire Browser busts out this play button (screenshot courtesy of SkyFire).

More importantly, embedded Flash audio and video from sites that (unlike YouTube) don’t have a deal with Apple to have embedded Flash videos automatically play within their own iPhone apps will now be accessible on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Flash apps (i.e., interactive games etc.) will still not run natively on the iPhone, but this is better than nothing.

Skyfire Browser, which Apple will make available in the iTunes App Store later today, is a customized, “full-fledged” version of Apple’s own Safari browser with SkyFire’s technology laid over it. When you try to access Flash content, it redirects the Flash file to its own server and translates it into HTML 5, which is Steve Jobs-approved. SkyFire’s servers can adjust the size of any video window, so you can make it fit on your phone’s screen if it doesn’t already, and it rejiggers framerate and compression to play the video continuously even if your connection is slow. The company released a similar app for Android phones in April, where it attracted its 500,000th downloader in June.

Apparently, Apple is cool with SkyFire translating Flash into HTML 5, which is good for users — and by doing so, Apple can stick to Jobs’ mandate that Flash is a relic from the “keyboard and mouse” days that has no place on mobile devices.

Who cares; let the music play.

Update: The SkyFire browser, which adds a Flash-audio-and-video-capable version of Apple’s Safari browser to the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, is now available in iTunes.