Web Browsing Performance on Android 2.2 Hampered by Flash Compatibility [Updated]

PocketNow offers a comparison of Web browsing speeds between Apple's iPhone 3GS and Google's new Android 2.2 "Froyo" announced earlier this week. Froyo is notable for Google's claims regarding browsing speed, but also for its support of Adobe's Flash Player 10.1 Beta, which will allow Android devices running the updated operating system to handle Flash content on the Web, unlike the iPhone.


PocketNow's lengthy video comparison seems to show that Froyo does in fact offer a speedy browsing experience, but that speed increase is canceled out by the need for it to load Flash content on many websites. The result means that users may be able to enjoy the benefit of seeing webpages rendered with Flash content included, but at the expense of slower page loading.

Furthermore, while the demonstration appears to show adequate ability to play Flash-based games, the browser's ability to deal with Flash content on a fluid basis as integrated into a webpage seems less impressive. Flash elements lead to stuttering while scrolling and zooming on webpages with Flash content, and even resulted in a low memory warning requiring the tester to actively manage the currently open applications on the test device. Commenters on the PocketNow article report that users have the ability to load Flash elements only on demand, but that even so the browser experiences some increased lag compared to Flash-free browsing.

While Flash 10.1 remains in beta form and will likely see improvements in both the software and hardware partners' ability to offer hardware-accelerated Flash performance on mobile devices, the current performance is not likely to sway Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who noted in his "Thoughts on Flash" open letter last month that he had yet to see Flash "performing well" on mobile platforms.

We have routinely asked Adobe to show us Flash performing well on a mobile device, any mobile device, for a few years now. We have never seen it.

PocketNow is planning to completely uninstall Flash from its Nexus One handset running Froyo in order to more accurately assess the speed increase associated with the new Android browser when not being hampered by Flash content. Preliminary indications based on benchmarks suggest that its speed easily exceeds that of Android 2.1 and should significantly surpass that of the iPhone 3GS.

Update: PocketNow has now posted a follow-up video showing that, with Flash disabled, the Android 2.2 browser is indeed faster than Safari on the iPhone 3GS in many of the real-world tests shown, sometimes by a significant margin.

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