Flash is still banished from Apple's iPhone, but a mobile browser is opening the door--at least partially--to the technology.
After its recent approval by Apple, Skyfire, a mobile Web browser that converts Flash videos to HTML5, hit the App Store today at 2 p.m. PT.
Selling for $2.99, the app has been awaiting Apple's thumbs-up since it was submitted for approval more than two months ago.
Skyfire uses a trick to coax Flash videos to run on the iPhone and iPod Touch. Those devices don't support Flash due to Apple's ban of the Adobe Systems' plug-in. In the same vein, Apple earlier this year blocked technology that let developers translate their Flash apps into native iPhone apps, though Apple recently relented on that stance.
Here is Skyfire's solution: when you browse a Web page with Flash video, Skyfire's own servers fire up and convert the content into HTML5 on the fly. Clicking on a thumbnail of the HTML5 video then streams it directly from Skyfire's servers to the Apple device.
Though designed for the iPhone and iPod Touch, the app will run on the iPad, but only in iPhone-compatibility mode. That doubles the pixels, though, creating a grainy-looking video. Skyfire confirmed that it will release an iPad-specific version of the app at a later date.
The app won't convert games or any other nonvideo content. And certain sites, notably Hulu, block Skyfire. That's hardly surprising since Hulu has been trying to drum up interest in its $10-per-month Hulu Plus service, which is available as its own mobile app.
Skyfire 2.0 for iPhone follows in the footsteps of Skyfire for Android, which launched earlier this year. Though native Flash support is available in Android 2.2 and higher, people running older versions of Google's mobile OS still need a workaround to view Flash content.
Like its Android counterpart, Skyfire for the iPhone runs on top of mobile Safari rather than as a separate browser. But it also includes several unique features of its own.
Skyfire's video icon fixes any missing Flash video content that you'd normally see in Safari, which means no more Flash error messages. You can share a video through e-mail and via Facebook or Twitter. The company's servers also adjust the resolution of the streamed video depending on the screen size of the phone and the speed of the network connection.
The app will offer relevant videos and other content based on the page you're currently viewing. A desktop mode can display full Web sites, rather than just their mobile versions. And finally, up to eight different browser windows can be opened to display a variety of sites at the same time.
"Users don't think about what video technology a site uses. They just want the video to play," Skyfire CEO Jeff Glueck said in a statement. "With this workaround, Skyfire makes playback possible, while also optimizing the video for mobile screens and networks. That makes it easier to fit video through congested cell towers, saves battery life, and helps users conserve megabytes in their data plan."
Updated at 2 p.m. PT: A Skyfire representative confirmed the app's launch date for today at 2 p.m.