Skyfire, the proxy browser that specializes in bringing Adobe Flash functionality to platforms it cannot live in naturally, has submitted its newest browser to the iTunes app store. I got to test it this morning and while it's not perfect, I like it a lot already. If the company can continue to improve its handling of Flash, I can imagine using Skyfire instead of Safari on the iPad. I can almost imagine doing that now. The app's release date is of course unknown, that will depend on when and if Apple approves it. Update: Skyfire says they just received approval and should appear in the App Store tonight.
Skyfire sits on your iPad like any other app, but mimics many of the Safari interface elements. In addition to allowing you to watch Flash videos and listen to some Flash audio players, Skyfire adds some really cool social elements to the browser chrome. It does things that the ostensibly Facebook-centric browser RockMelt ought to do. Read on for screenshots and our initial review.
I watched almost a full episode of the Colbert Report right in my browser, with a minimal amount of loading that I had Skyfire perform in the background while I looked at another tab. Video quality wasn't great but it worked well.
It's nice to be able to listen to the Flash audio player on Hype Machine, but that site's native player's ability to move from one song to another doesn't work in Skyfire. The Yahoo Flash MP3 Player that many music blogs use does not appear in Skyfire. Grooveshark? MySpace music? Nothing. I guess that means it's just Hype Machine that I was able to listen to Flash music on in Skyfire, and not that well there, either. The browser is really intended to support Flash video, not all Flash content.
Biggest bummer: you can't listen to Flash audio in the background using Skyfire, while running other apps. That's a real shame, but I wouldn't be surprised if the company changed that in future updates if at all possible.
Nope. Not on AdictingGames or Kongregate.
The best thing about Skyfire may be its social features at the bottom of your browser. They include a pop-up of your Facebook Newsfeed, a mobile Twitter client, a display of just links shared by Facebook contacts, a pop-up of the most recent and popular pages among your Facebook contacts and generally on the site that you're on right now (this is great), a Google Reader pop-up, an instant Facebook "Like" button for every page you browse on and a menu to post a link to all kinds of other services, from Twitter to Instapaper.
That's a whole lot of cool options and they are displayed in a way that isn't intrusive at all. Better yet, you can easily hide all the browser chrome with the full screen browsing button.
Skyfire loads pages reasonably fast. Its interface is reasonably responsive but with some clear bugs. It's not as fast as Safari, but it does do things that Safari doesn't do. Some of those things are very cool, too, like the Facebook integration.
Hopefully Skyfire will be able to improve the browser's performance in time. If it can do that and incorporate more support for more types of Flash content, like music sites, then it would be a clear winner. Those are tall orders, though.
Hopefully Apple will approve this competing browser on the iPad. It's probably the most full-featured competition the company has seen yet. I've got my fingers crossed. So far, Skyfire for iPad looks like a strong, interesting, enjoyable, if somewhat shaky and incomplete, way to browse the web on the iPad.