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SkyFire 2.0 browser review

Damien McFerran


Yet another Android web browser hits the market, but this one has a secret weapon: Flash playback

Rating: 

Verdict: The ability to view Flash videos is brilliant and the additional options make this a front-runner in terms of Android web viewers

Platform: Android

Pros: Flash video on Android finally! Also, neat features such as the recommendation menu and the ability to force the screen to stay on help make surfing the web even more pleasureable

Cons: Flash video doesn't always load properly and the overall speed performence isn't that much better than its rivals

Version: 2.0.2

Publisher: SkyFire

Price: Free

More Info: SkyFire website

The Android browser war is certainly building up speed of late. With thousands of users dissatisfied with the stock Android web viewer we’ve seen a myriad of companies entering the fray with their own software.

SkyFire is one of the latest additions to the ever-growing ranks of Android browsers but it has one massive ace up its sleeve – the ability to playback Flash video.

Although this feature is planned for the upcoming Android 2.2 update, until this point watching videos on your device was impossible unless you used a portal like YouTube.

SkyFire is able to offer this service by scanning pages for video content and then loading that content through its dedicated servers. You then have to watch the footage in a separate window, rather than through the page itself.

It’s quite a selling point but it’s worth noting that it’s not 100% reliable; we found that SkyFire didn’t correctly detect video on some of the sites we visited.

Flash playback isn’t the only trick SkyFire possesses. There’s also a unique recommendation feature which finds content relevant to the page you’re currently viewing.

It’s a little inconsistent and often fails to offer up any meaningful suggestions but when it does work it’s undeniably brilliant – being able to instantly hop to another site which expands on what you’re currently viewing is great.

The usual browser choices – such as bookmarking, sharing content on social networks and hopping between open windows – all work as you might expect. However, one other element which is worth mentioning is the ability to toggle between different page rendering techniques.

The default option is set to Desktop, which means that any page you visit on SkyFire will look and operate as it should when viewed on a standard PC.

The Android and iPhone options display things differently and optimise the content for a smaller screen. If you’re running a powerful device with a large display – like the Nexus One or Motorola Droid – then the Desktop option wins hands down.

Naturally it’s more demanding on your processor and is more data-intensive but if you’re not concerned about these things then it’s a really boon to have an authentic desktop experience on your phone.

It’s also worth noting that SktFire supports multi-touch commands for the all-important “pinch to zoom” gesture, and there’s even the opportunity to force your screen to stay active whenever SkyFire is open. To our knowledge no other browser offers this function and it saves you having to constantly unlock your phone when the display powers down when you’re reading content on a page.

While it’s possible that Android 2.2 – with its built-in Flash support – will make SkyFire a less appealing proposition, the other embellishments on offer should ensure that its appeal is undiminished. This is an intelligently designed browser with bags of options and some real game-changing features, and is most definitely worth considering if you’re sick to death of the basic Android web viewer.

 

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Video playback is the biggest draw of SkyFire

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