Random techie babbling...

Why I’m not (yet) interested in Flash/Air for Android

Over the last few days there’s been great fanfare about the release of Air for Android, and just a little while previously Flash 10 for Android, but no mention of either on my blog.

I’ve been working with Flash for about 15 years now, and more recently I’ve done quite a bit with Android…I have 3 native SDK Android apps in the market with over 30k downloads and 4.5 star ratings. So why haven’t I been combining the two skills?

Simple…. compare the number of Android devices available just this year:
http://www.androphones.com/2010-android-phones.php
…with the number of devices Flash 10 is compatible with:
http://www.adobe.com/flashplatform/supported_devices/smartphones.html

Unfortunately my ‘ageing’ (8 months old!) HTC Hero, even though it happily runs Froyo, won’t run Flash (or of course Air) because of its hardware requirements. This is a big issue that no one seems to be mentioning, as even if your older phone can run Froyo and ever gets and update to it (many wont without hacking) it probably still can’t run Flash because of its hardware… and I’m not even sure what these hardware requirements are as nowhere seems to mention them? I have no idea of the numbers but I have a feeling that you’re cutting your available market drastically by not supporting an SDK < Froyo or only high end new phones.

While I applaud Adobe for all the work they’ve put in I think it’s going to be a while (6 months?) before enough new high end handsets are out there to make using Air a viable choice instead of the native SDK (which to be honest isn’t hard to pick up for someone used to AS3 and Flex)… although that swing may be increasing as more and more people I speak to are ready to try something other than an iPhone when they next upgrade.

What do you think? Does the familiarity of using Flash outweigh the loss of market share for you? Do you not care, and are simply happy to be able to use your Flash skills in Android? I’d be very interested to hear some numbers on the market share of Flash/Air compatible phones if anyone has them?

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7 Comments

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  1. Eric Holm says:

    I agree, its nice for prototyping but not (yet) ready for consumer apps.
    The hardware specs aren’t mentioned on the Adobe site (well at least I couldn’t find them)
    But your device needs at least a “ARM Cortex-A8″ processor.

    Another big problem for me is that the Air runtime is 16.3MB and that you can’t move it to your SD-card.

  2. Allan says:

    I think that with the fast pace in the mobile-market at the moment it shouldn’t be long before people will have updated phones that can run AIR.

    That beeing said I still think you are right that develping natively would be the better option (atm).

    @Eric Holm http://gregsramblings.com/2010/10/09/how-to-move-adobe-air-for-android-to-your-sd-card/

  3. Leo says:

    I’m glad that they have the hardware requirements that they have. Usually I try to ensure that Flash applications I make are usable on a 10 year old PC or a machine with lots of tabs and programs open. If Flash was made available to devices like the Hero with a 500MHz CPU, that would mean that a lot of current Flash content would run very bad. So setting the bar somewhat high ensures that people do not get an awful experience.

    I’m very exited about the Air release, and is working on an app which I’m planning to use Air to target Android with. Looking short term it does not make sense to use Air if you are expecting market sales to be the main source of revenue. About 1/3 of Android users currently have FroYo:
    http://developer.android.com/resources/dashboard/platform-versions.html
    Although there are exceptions, I think it’s fair to assume that there are very few users with phones running FroYo but that cannot run Flash or Air. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Hero never got an official FroYo update, which means that there would be only a few users with an unofficial version.
    If you look at the rate in which new versions of Android gain share, it will not take long before a majority of Android users has 2.2 or higher.

    Of course excluding around 2/3 of potential users on Android is a bad idea if you can avoid it, but unless you have unlimited development resources for a project, you have to look at the potential market as a whole.
    In my case I’m making an application intended to be made available on the web, on facebook, app store and maybe blackberry tablets and Windows Phone 7 in the future.
    I’m not expecting it to get enough revenue from the app to make it worthwhile making a native version for each platform, and loosing 66% of Android users certainly seems worth it considering the number of users one can gain in total.

    Of course, many apps will not be suitable for the web as well, in which case native can make more sense right now. But with the packager for iPhone now accepted and WP7 as well as Blackberry tablets presumable getting Air reasonably soon, I would say that native development only make sense for specific types of applications where there are feature or performance concerns justifying the extra effort to target each platform individually.

  4. One thing that has me concerned about flash on android is memory management. It seems like flashs garbage collection can be an absentie landlord. I can’t trust it to not eat a ton of memory and then just die.

    It’s nice to have the option to build small things, but I would never build a large app and release it in AIR for mobile.

  5. chall3ng3r says:

    I agree that limiting AIR to only Froyo based devices is not really a good decision, but in the long term (as you pointed, ~6 months), there will be many more capable devices, as Froyo’s base requirement are almost same as AIR.

    I shared some pointers why AIR has an edge over native Android development, you can read it on my blog: http://www.orison.biz/blogs/chall3ng3r/?p=2860

    // chall3ng3r //

  6. Flo says:

    I wrote the Hardware requirements for air on Android here:
    http://www.video-flash.de/index/ueberblick-adobe-air-android/
    (German)

    They were taken from one of the Adobe Blogs.

  7. brandon says:

    I agree with the main post. Adobe should have not put such tight restrictions on the processor. As for i have 4 years of experience with flash and have 5 android devices in my home all running FroYo. I would love to develop on android but can’t because all 5 of these phones are unable to use air. And i can’t get a firm grasp on the android sdk even though i know a ton about java. i just don’t understand why adobe can make the export to IOS 100% native with no need for an extra app, and the android (written from java, the same language actionscript stems from) have a mandatory framework that needs to be installed?

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