Why the iPhone Does Not Need Flash: HTML5


One of the most common complaints about the iPhone OS is that Adobe’s Flash is not supported. Without Flash, you are unable watch video content on popular news sites, as it is the dominant plugin on the web. However, Flash has its shortcomings: resource-heavy (memory leaks, plugin crashes, etc), security (malware), and thirst for power consumption. It paved the path in the beginning but now it’s time to move away from Adobe’s outdated technology.

Why Is Adobe Flash Not On the iPhone?

Remember when Adobe was supposedly planning Flash for the iPhone? Whatever happened to that? Here is some possible inside according to Adobe UI Gripes, via a reddit thread from November of 2009:

About six months ago, a friend who was working closely along side adobe’s flash application development team told me that they received a prototype of Flash for iPhone. The prototype allowed the iPhone to have less than half an hour of battery life using flash. They then sent the prototype to apple and suggested incorporating this prototype iPhone flash into the iPhone OS in the next update.

Apparently apple sent this letter back thanking them for being interested in developing a working version of flash for the iphone but because the prototype is so processor intensive, and awful for battery life, they would not include it with their OS because it is just not good enough. They suggested using the gpu instead of the processor to render flash. Then they suggested building a seperate app for flash and web browsing because there was no way apple could endorse flash integration on the iphone in its current state.

Adobe apparently didn’t want to release the app under their name either and it never showed up in the app store.

A long story in short: Adobe sucks at programming, then apple told them they sucked at programming. If they want to release that shit under the name adobe so be it, but it sure isn’t going to be endorsed by Apple.

That was the last they saw of that prototype.

Can HTML5 Be the Future of Video on the Web?

HTML5 is becoming the new web standard and evidence of this is YouTube’s HTML5 Beta page. You can sign up and watch YouTube without the need for Flash. It runs great and you can’t even tell the difference that Flash isn’t being used.

But what about Flash? The web is immersed in Flash, right? Without Flash, you’re missing out on videos, games, and ads. Is that a bad thing? HTML5 currently is only supported by Safari and Chrome browsers. Apple has mentioned that the number one reason for crashes in Safari is related to Flash. It’s time to consider other ways to view multimedia on our computers and smartphones–HTML5 is the answer.

SublimeVideo HTML5 Video Player: Amazing Video Thanks to HTML5

I stumbled upon the SublimeVideo HTML5 Video Player via Robert Scoble’s blog in the comments. This is an amazing example of HTML5’s capabilities. Currently it’s only supported in Safari and Chrome. You can view it right on your iPhone by clicking here.

The quality is stunning and immediately you can debate about whether or not Flash needs to be on the iPhone. As more developers adopt the HTML5 standard, the importance of Flash will be diminished.

With that being said, do you still care about Flash on the iPhone?


  • shnukms

    like having a cassette tape player on your new ferrari ey?

  • Sam

    I don't care about iPhone or iPad having flash (my iphone's been just fine without it for 2 years) but the sublime site is AMAZING.

    It loads SO FAST…absolutely zero lag. Firefox needs to get a move on with HTML5, as i find myself using chrome more and more.

    and the code is only this:

    <video class='sublime' height='255' poster='/images/embed/sublime/video/poster.jpg' width='600'>
    <source title='; type='video/mp4' />

    That's a web coder's dream, such clean code.

  • I think Firefox will adapt soon. My Mac Mini hates flash (the fan spins very happily though), HTML5 is the future and Adobe should be seriously worried.

  • djepsilon

    I consider flash as a nice to have, but not a deal breaker. I'll admit, there have been times where I've been surfing the web on my iphone and I can't even view a page because it's all done in flash. It can be very frusterating. However, if my iphone web browser crashed as often as my mac's does, It could potentially be 10 times MORE frusterating. It's kinda a double edged sword. At the end of the day, my iPhone is still one of the most amazing devices I have ever purchased and I'm not going to complain about little feature's here and there that are missing.

    …That HTML5 video looked amazing. I can't believe how fast it loaded.

  • Half_Pint

    There's more to Flash than just video.

    Without it, you're missing out on a lot of creative animated works, an accessible interactivity tool, and an effective medium for advertisers.

    But if Adobe are as incompetent as the article would have us believe, then I fully support Steve for challenging that arrogant behemoth.

  • Sam

    I find that when I find a flash site, that doesn't load, I simply laugh and feel disgusted that they use flash. Flash is fancy, laggish, and completely unnecessary for web design imho.

    I already disliked flash even BEFORE the iPhone, hence it never bothered me that it didn't have it.

  • qwert

    This Post should read Why does the iphone not have flash?????? The answer is because you'll be able to run web apps and web games by going around iTunes!!!! Steve Jobs is handing everyone bullcrap with his statements!!!!! I own two Macs and I have never had a problem with flash!!!!!!! Going around iTunes cuts into Apples profits and that's the only real reason they don't like flash!!!!!!!!!! If HTML5 was widely used as flash you can bet Apple would pull the plug on that as well but right now it poses no threat to them!!!!!

  • There are lots of people who put their own content on their iPhones, via converting videos or what have you. Even with Flash, people would still bypass iTunes at their choosing. I don't think it's fair to say that just because there's no Flash, I'm going to go buy a $10 movie on iTunes.

  • nosnoop

    >There are lots of people who put their own content on their iPhones, via converting videos or what have you.

    I disagree. MAJORITY of iPhone users totally depend on iTunes and Appstore to put stuff in their iPhone. Only those who frequent this forum or those who post here would venture into manual video conversion etc. Just like Jailbreaking; many users here did that, but the total number of jailbroken iPhones is merely a drop in the bucket of the total iPhone sold.

    With Flash, 3rd party games and apps would be made easily available / accessible to the first group of people who previously depend on iTunes/Appstore. And Steve does NOT want that.

  • nosnoop

    >HTML5 is becoming the new web standard

    This will never happen until it has full support by Internet Explorer. At this point, IE has only rudimentary HTML5 support, and no indication from Microsoft as to how far it would go. And we all know Microsoft's history of spotty support of ratified standard, let alone something ongoing developing ones (expected time for HTML5 to reach W3C recommendation is in year 2022 – that's right, no typo).

  • nosnoop

    HTML5 may replace Flash in Audio/Video presentation, but it still cannot match Flash in running applications such as games.

    Even for Video, there are potential problems. There is no agreed codec standard used in HTML5 among the browsers!! So in the future, web developers may have to encode the same video in different formats just to ensure that it would play in all browsers! On contrary, if you put out a flash video, it would play anywhere with flash support.

    Anyways, I don't buy Steve's “crash” excuse one bit, nor the half-hour battery life (seriously?). It is simply a commercial and political decision, not a technical one.

  • len

    Even if a few major sites add an HTML5 option, like YouTube and vimeo or something, it will still take years before thousands of other popular sites convert to it. So it won't really be a good excuse not to have flash for a long long time.

    Plus, are you able to do the same as flash with HTML5? Games and animations and cool menus on sites? (I have no idea but it doesn't sound like an animating code)

    On the iPhone it doesn't bother me that much except when I want to watch megavideo, but if the iPad doesn't have it, it is really going to be a useless tablet computer. (the other tablets have flash!)

  • qwert

    Thanks nosnoop for truly seeing it for what it is!!!!! Its all about Steve Jobs world and I know its off topic but when the iPad is released I think more people will understand and thats why I think it will fail!!!!! Apple is becoming a closed ecosystem and if Steve Jobs doesn't like it or it can potentially cut into their profits your not going to get it!!!!!!
    Long Live Free Thinkers, open source and making your own choices!!!!!!!!!

  • Spenrock

    Not having flash on a device primarily used for internet browsing is simply stupid. Already, one of the most frustrating things about my iPhone is not having flash. Many of the sites I try to visit, and videos sent via twitter links, etc., of course never work. For example, sends great highlight links via twitter, but I can never view them. Pure frustration and annoying!

    Jobs claiming that Adobe does not know how to program is also funny. The most bloated, longest loading, crash prone program on my Windows system is made by Apple! Yeah, I'm talking about iTunes. Unfortunately, I need to use it to sync my iPhone. It also is the most aggressive at trying to install other unwanted (e.g. Safari) software.

  • Shameless self-promotion, but Flash-like games are possible in HTML5, even on iPhone.

    I threw together an iPhone-friendly HTML version of an old game I wrote, have a look at:

  • Ryan

    I will admit that three lines of code is not very many and it would be easy to do, it is still 3 lines of code more you have to write as opposed to Flash that doesn't require you to write any.

  • Ryan

    I will admit that three lines of code is not very many and it would be easy to do, it is still 3 lines of code more you have to write as opposed to Flash that doesn't require you to write any.

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  • Guest

    yes, I do still care about flash on my iphone. I could plug it in and watch tv online. It’s annoying but better than nothing – which is what I have now.

  • Timbertrand1

    Wow you guys thought wrong 2 years ago about the iPad not having flash