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Want Flash on iOS? Get fast relief with Puffin browser

Sections: iDevice Apps, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, iPod touch

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CloudMosa Software’s Justin Hsiao tells me their Puffin 3.0 Web browser for iOS devices is coming next month. In the meantime, Puffin 2 remains the best workaround I’ve found for Apple’s Flash video boycott in the iOS, and it’s a great browser in general—definitely one of the fastest. The developers say it’s “wicked fast” thanks to Puffin’s leveraging of a massive Cloud computing data center proxy server to pre-process Web pages, which not only accelerates page rendering speed, but also reduces network data bandwidth usage.

Flash on iOS with Puffin Browser

CloudMosa’s stated mission is to accelerate the Web experience on mobile devices through Cloud computing, having developed technology to shift the workload’s heavy lifting from the mobile device itself to the remote Cloud servers. By outsourcing computing-intensive tasks to the Cloud, resource-demanding Web applications can run smoothly on resource-limited devices. Puffin’s speed advantage is highlighted even more on slower mobile connections. CloudMosa says its server has 32 cores and 768GB memory, and an Internet backbone with 10Gbps bandwidth and 1ms latency to major Websites. As a result, they claim that Puffin can execute JavaScript 5x faster than the closest competitors, and that based on SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark, Puffin is 550% faster than the iPad’s built-in Safari browser, and 1600% faster than Chrome and other alternative browsers on the iOS platform. I can’t vouch scientifically for those metrics, but the system works, and Puffin is definitely fast.

Flash on iOS with Puffin Browser

However, for me one of the most tiresome of the iOS’s many limitations has been not raw browser speed, but the absence of Flash support, and Puffin has that base covered as well. For example, my favorite mainstream general news site uses Flash extensively for video content, and looking at empty placeholder windows got old fast and stayed that way. HTML5 may well be the future as Apple contends, but the need for Flash on iOS is still is a major reality in the now.

Currently Puffin supports Flash 11.2, and Cloudmosa says there is continued upgrading to the latest version.

There are some limitations. For some videos, Puffin provides a full-screen player option for iOS and Android 3.0+. The full-screen player leverages the native video player on your device, and thus provides a much smoother video streaming experience. For some video websites (such as Hulu and other TV channel video sites), they use a video streaming technology Puffin currently doesn’t support in the full-screen player, so video streaming experience in the embedded player could be laggy.

The video formats Puffin Browser supports in full-screen mode include:

iOS:

  • H.264 Baseline Profile
  • MPEG4 Simple Profile
  • VP6 (Flash video only)

Android:

  • H.263
  • H.264 Baseline Profile
  • MPEG4 Simple Profile
  • VP8 (for Android 2.3.3+)

Puffin currently doesn’t support Silverlight and flip4mac plugins (which are only available in Internet Explorer).

Flash on iOS with Puffin Browser

There is a free (ad-supported) version—Puffin Web Browser Free—that supports an initial two-week trial of the Flash feature. You can extend your free Flash trial time by recommending Puffin to your friends, up to a maximum of 12. Each referral nets you 4 more weeks of Flash support.

The $2.99 paid version gives you non-expiring Flash compatibility, and the upgraded Flash engine in the latest version Puffin Browser 2.3.3 is claimed to improve both Flash display smoothness and battery life.

Other cool Puffin features are text selection arrows that really work, substituting decently-sized yellow arrows for those wretched blue dots in other browsers and most other iOS apps.

Flash on iOS with Puffin Browser

Puffin’s unique virtual mouse technology is intended to help bridge the divergence between mobile and desktop computing experiences. Users can activate the trackpad through the virtual mouse at any time and use it in a manner similar to using a trackpad on laptops. I think it’s great, Just tap the little mouse icon down in the left lowermost corner of the browser window, and a translucent virtual touchpad appears on screen, allowing you to navigate and click with an arrow-shaped cursor icon. I still much prefer mouse-and-cursor input to touchscreen modes, and this is the next best thing. I wish that not just all iOS browsers, but all iOS apps had this feature.

Flash on iOS with Puffin Browser

Puffin’s virtual trackpad feature has now been joined in version 2.3.3 by a new virtual GamePad that can simulate arrow keys and buttons. To launch the virtual GamePad on an iPad, tap on the GamePad button at the right-bottom corner of the user interface window. To launch virtual GamePad on iPhone, press the menu button and choose launch GamePad. When virtual GamePad shows up, tap the setup button to configure the mapped buttons. There are also new scroll-to-edge buttons that appear when you scroll a page fast enough. Once the scroll to edge button shows up, tapping it will scroll to the end of current scrolling direction.

Flash on iOS with Puffin Browser

Puffin is compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), and all iPad versions. For iOS, Puffin requires iOS 5 or later. For Android, the minimum OS version is Android 2.2.

For more information, visit www.puffinbrowser.com or check out their YouTube channel.

Products [Puffin Browser and Puffin Browser Free]

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