- Provides alternative to viewing Flash videos
- Data savings
- Facebook integration
- Not all videos are available
- Lacks true tabbed browsing
- Video support isn't free
Skyfire is an interesting and creative browser that deals with one of mobile webs biggest hurdles: embedded videos. Some cell phones dont support Flash, which is needed to watch some videos. Skyfire, however, has a unique approach: It encodes the videos on its servers, compresses them, and then streams the videos in a supported format back to the cell phone.
Speed: Skyfire performed well enough surfing the web and loaded the mobile CNN website in 6 seconds and the full CNN website in about 34 seconds. Thats faster than the stock browser but not quite as fast as Opera Mobile. The browser loads pages well enough and surfing is effortless. Scrolling, like most browsers in this round-up, was slightly jerky.
Page Display: Similar to some of the other browsers in the round-up, Skyfire does have the option to switch the user client from the mobile version of a website to the desktop version in order to view full pages. Its biggest innovation is the way it handles Flash-based videos on the web. Skyfire scans the page for Flash videos that it can convert into HTML5 format for viewing on the mobile device. This opens up the Web for those on devices that dont natively support Flash and can even save on data usage. The feature works fairly well in practice, though we did find a few videos and pages that werent supported by Skyfire. When a video does load, it opens in a dedicated window that takes up the entire display. There is no viewing the video within the context of the webpage. However, due to the compression and cache technologies this can save on data usage a benefit for those on a limited data plan. In order to access this service indefinitely, users need to purchase the Skyfire Video License Key for a one-time fee of $2.99.
Navigation: Skyfire doesnt boast any new or ingenious navigation features, but navigation works well for web surfing. It doesnt offer true tabbed browsing, but it does have a dedicated button on the toolbar to see what pages are open similar to the stock browser and Opera Mobile. Overall, we found navigation quick, intuitive, and easy to master.
Extra Features: This browser boasts a huge number of additional features that are clearly geared toward social users. It is clearly a mobile web browser that should be used in conjunction with Facebook since it has a dedicated button to go straight to a users Facebook feed. Theres also familiar like button to like any web page and to share that link with others. Even more, users can see what pages are popular on a particular site based on what friends have shared and what the Facebook community as a whole has liked on that site. Its a fun feature on websites that have a lot of regularly updated content to see what rises to the top. Finally, the Fireplace feed reader filters a users Facebook feed into just those items that are videos, photos, or links to see what friends are sharing.
Overall: Skyfire is a browser that provides an interesting suite of services for a particular type of consumer. For those with a limited data plan, the innovative video service is a great way to save on data consumption. Facebook users will appreciate how well the browser integrates the web surfing experience with Facebook content. For those who fall into both categories then Skyfire is an obvious choice. However, for those who dont have a particular proclivity for social networking and dont need to scrimp on data, and use a smartphone that supports Flash there are better options available.