About Web Browsers Summary
Skyfire for the iPad made headlines when it was first released, due to its ability to play Flash videos on a device previously void of this popular technology. Users flocked to the App Store, eager to drop five bucks for the chance to view their favorite clips, shows, and movies on their iPad. Not only did the browser play these videos, but the integrated video compression saved a significant amount of bandwidth for people on a restricted data plan.
The initial excitement wore off quickly, though, as complaints were rampant about many sites not playing videos as expected. Since its inception Skyfire has certainly improved in this area, now claiming support for over 200,000 websites containing Flash. The dissenters will always be there as not every Flash video on the Web will be playable, even if the developers at Skype Labs remain diligent. Some of the backlash is warranted to a certain extent. If I paid $4.99 with the intent of viewing Flash only to discover my favorite site wasn't supported, I'd be quite upset. However, Skyfire provides a way to check if a specific website will work, prior to your purchase, via the following URL: www.bit.ly/site_check.
The majority of iPad users buy Skyfire for one reason and one reason only - Flash videos. The browser's feature set runs much deeper, though, and adds to its appeal as a potential everyday option. Included are items you'd expect in a five dollar browser, such as a private mode and full-screen browsing. The real convenience lies in the customizable SkyBar, a toolbar which lets you perform a number of actions including viewing your Facebook and Twitter feeds, the latest stories from your Google Reader account, and more. Also on the SkyBar is a Popular Pages feature, which utilizes Facebook's API to display the pieces of content most shared on the Web page that you're currently viewing.
Rounding up the notable components is the ability to share on almost a dozen services with a quick tap of the finger, and the option to render pages as a desktop browser as opposed to the mobile version.
Overall, Skyfire for iPad is a fairly impressive browser. It handily combines a number of useful features in a stable and visually engaging package. Oh yeah, it also plays Flash. With that said, its price tag is a bit steep compared to most of the alternatives. I have to lower my rating based on this factor, as paying more than two dollars for a browser is something many users seem hesitant to do. If your main goal is quality playback of Flash videos on your iPad, however, then it is probably worth laying out the money.
Now there's a smarter browser for the iPad: The “Video” icon enables users to play millions of Flash videos around the Web that otherwise do not play on mobile. This unlocks content trapped behind those error messages with question marks and blue Legos by transcoding the Flash content into HTML5 on Skyfire’s servers.
Devices Supported: iPad
App Size: 2.3 MB
This article was last updated on May 19, 2011.