Monday, 17 December 2012 17:02

Puffin: magically dragging Adobe Flash onto iPad, iPhone, iTouch, Android Featured

Puffin: magically dragging Adobe Flash onto iPad, iPhone, iTouch, Android Image credit: Puffin logos superimposed on iTWire site

No, you don’t need to puff the magic dragon to get Adobe Flash content onto your iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad or non-Flash enabled Android, you just need the quite amazing Puffin browser, now in version 2.3.x!

Available on iOS devices as Puffin Web Browser 2.3.4, and on Android devices in version 2.3.7113, Puffin is a cloud-based web browser app that not only feels the need for speed, but speeds along at a pace that sends Safari on a wild-goose safari looking for Javascript to process.

It’s also way faster than Chrome on Android devices, and this is because it “pre-processes web pages” in its data centre, accelerating surfing speeds while reducing data usage, which combined with a superfast Javascript engine delivers the full desktop browsing experience to your smartphone or tablet.

Naturally, this includes full Adobe Flash capabilities, whether to play videos, to play Flash-based games, to view Flash based ads or even Flash-based sites.

When watching Flash videos, some sites let Puffin default to playing the video surprisingly smoothly in “full screen mode”, whereas other sites don’t offer this capability, merely playing the Flash video within the page you’re browsing.

Because everything is pre-processed in the US, and depending on the strength of your Wi-Fi or 3G/4G connection, Flash playback can sometimes be a bit choppy, while other times being smooth as silk.

However, when playing Flash games, some of which are relatively static (as per the Farmvilles of the world), this is less of an issue.

There’s also a very cool “virtual mouse” mode that displays a transparent “trackpad” on the screen of your tablet or smartphone, which you call up, use and dispense with as needed.

Activating this mode also brings up a mouse cursor, which you move about using the virtual trackpad, letting you easily “click” on icons that might be harder to press with your fingertip, while working with two fingers to “drag” items onto the field of play in Flash games.

Yes, I do use SkyFire web browser which converts Flash videos to iPhone compatible videos on the fly, but that browser works with Flash videos only, not Flash games, sites or other content.

Puffin is different, however, and is the closest to the traditional desktop browsing experience that I’ve seen on a tablet or smartphone, coming itself with a very smooth interface for switching between tabs, and coming with a surprisingly fast rendering speed that will have you wondering whether Puffin should be your full-time mobile browser, or not.

It's also a very simple way to get Flash onto the latest Android 4.x devices that no longer come with Adobe Flash installed, offering a jailbreak-free (on iOS) and root-free (on Android) solution to restoring Flash capability, even though Flash isn't always super-smooth, seeing as it depends on your Internet connection - although the rest of the browsing experience is fast fast fast.

Concluded on page two, please let the puffin feathers fly and read on!

The default mode for Puffin is to operate as a desktop browser, although there’s a mode to switch to a “mobile” view, which makes Puffin particularly handy to visit sites that force you into a mobile view and no longer give you the "full site" experience.  

An example of this can be had by anyone who has visited the Sydney Morning Herald website on their iDevices of late.

You will likely have noticed that Fairfax has implemented a new “mobile” site for its newspapers, which is very nice but for one thing: you can’t click and hold a link to open a story in a background tab, so you can have several open tabs ready and waiting for you to read!

That makes the new SMH a disappointing site to read on Safari, because the “brainiacs” at Fairfax no longer let you open up multiple pages at a time in preparation to read them at one’s leisure – instead it forces you to click, go back, do this, do that, do every damn thing you want except open links in background tabs. Thanks, Fairfax.

Of course, anyone that has tried different browsers on iOS knows that you can get, say, the excellent Atomic Web browser, and then set its user agent to various versions of Firefox or IE, among others, to force SMH or other sites into desktop mode.

However, Puffin Web Browser is the first I’ve seen to truly replicate the entirety of your standard desktop web browsing experience on a smartphone or a tablet, which is pretty amazing if you ask me!

There’s a free version of the browser to try, which Puffin suggests is the way to go first.

It’s the same as the full version, with the exception that Adobe Flash usage works for two weeks. This allows you enough time to test out your favourite sites, as well as seeing how Flash video and/or Flash games play for you on your device, and your connections.

It’s also a superfast free browser alternative for those who do not need Flash support.

Because it’s based in the US, the browser thinks you are in the US too, so US sites that have video content blocked for Aussies will work, although this also means Aussie sites with video content (like, say, iView) won’t work as they are geo-locked to those in Australia only.

It also means that any usernames or password you type go through Puffin’s servers, although they say they aren’t tracking users or keeping those details, so as long as you understand that and are still happy to use it, Puffin may well puff some new life into your mobile browsing experience.

I’ve certainly enjoyed using it, with the funny thing being that despite browsers having been free on PCs and Macs for so long, this is a browser I’ve been happy to buy (along with Skyfire, Atomic Web, Perfect Browser and the now-defunct iBitfire).

If you want to see what it’s like, try the free version first, otherwise the paid version of the browser costs AUD $2.99 on the iOS App Store, and AUD $2.93 on the Google Play Store. There are no extra ongoing costs.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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