Flash in the iPan: How many give an old mac for a flash?
Author: Michael Evans
How many of the 85 million iPhone or iPod touch owners wake up in the morning and think: “I don’t have Flash Player! I’d better rush out and buy another phone after breakfast”? Not many, judging by recent brand loyalty surveys. The fact is, most of them don’t give a dirty old macintosh for Flash. They don’t know they haven’t got it; they don’t know they might need it. What they haven’t had, they don’t miss.
Nevertheless, this is a simplistic argument. I realise that a significant number of users do want Flash. They make very strong arguments in favour of an iPhone implementation and look forward to a time when Steve caves in and adds it to OS 4. Adobe fans, in particular, seem to dislike Apple’s attitude (“Go screw yourself, Apple”). Many are enraged. But the point I make is that they are in a minority in the big wide world of iPhone OS ownership.
Flash not missed
Whether or not there are deeper commercial reasons for Apple’s aversion to Flash, Steve Jobs’ explanation that Flash is buggy**, is a memory hog and a battery drainer rings true with me. On the phone, despite heavy use every day, I cannot remember when I last really missed Flash. I hardly ever see the blue “no Flash” icon and I know that Safari browsing is faster for the absence of Flash video. I can manage, but then I am by no means a typical user and tend to spend most of my day with productivity apps of one sort or another.
Even on the Mac, however, I now seldom miss Flash. I have it switched off* in Safari but left as default on in Firefox, my second browser of choice. If I do want to see a video on a news site I simply load it in Firefox and then exit Firefox after use. That way I don't suddenly find the fan running in overdrive and the whole shebang locking up on me.
Since I turned off Flash I have been spared the need to reboot my MacBook Pro very day; and it runs so much cooler and faster as a result of not having to cope with often-unwanted video. I can well imagine, therefore, the effect on the iPhone or iPad of running Flash, especially now we are to enjoy multi-tasking.
Stability is paramount
The iPhone and iPod touch are both extremely stable small computers, and I have every reason to believe the iPad will be just as reliable. These are products you can use and use without concerning yourself about sorting out problems. In this respect I am sure that Apple’s close control of apps, and insistence on conformity, is also important for stability. It’s not just the lack of Flash, it’s the whole experience that attracts iPhone buyers and keeps them happy.
Long-time smartphone owners need only think back to their experiences with earlier editions of Windows Mobile on phones such as the Treo 750. Running one of those needs all the care and attention required of an owner of a veteran 1901 De Dion Bouton. And while we’ve got the spanners out, try comparing the experience of buying and installing a program on one of those old Windows Mobile devices with dialling up the AppStore.
Brand loyalty rocks without Flash
Another reason for the success of the Flashless iPhone is, simply, brand loyalty. The Apple brand has a cachet and a loyal following that competitors can only envy. And success brings another form of loyalty, the forced loyalty of vested interest. How much have you spent on apps? Maybe $300, perhaps £400? Whatever you’ve spent, you have a vested interest in sticking with the iPhone. A replacement has to walk on water before you’ll make the switch.
Before I’m accused of slavish Apple loyalty, let me say that I have tried other mobile platforms with Flash, such as Android. I like Android and, in some respects, it is superior to iPhone OS. But in terms of the overall user experience I come back to Apple every time. The iPhone is just so right that very few owners wake in the morning with a yen for something else.
All this is why the iPhone continues to surge ahead (7.5 million sales in the first Quarter of 2010) and why 90% of owners think Apple is the best handset maker on the market, despite Apple’s deliberate radical Flashectomy.
* To disable Flash in Safari go to Preferences, Security and untick “Enable plug-ins”. You can always reinstate it without problems (or, as I do, leave it as default on another browser that is not your every-day choice).
** (From Wiki):
Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Inc. openly criticised the stability of Flash, claiming that when one of Apple's Macintosh computers crashes, "more often than not" the cause can be attributed to Flash. Additionally, he labelled Flash as "buggy".