Over the past few weeks there’s been an Interwebs buzz over the future support (or lack there of) of Adobe’s Flash on Android. Flash has always been a big selling point for Android as a platform and one of the first bullet point answers that fan boys argue for when comparing Android to iPhone. And I’ll admit that I used to argue that running Flash was one of the most amazing features of Android. But let’s stop kidding ourselves folks: Flash was used to promote the openness of Android compared to the closed Apple ecosystem.
Now, there’s a few different discussion on why Flash matters or doesn’t matter on Android, but mainly they center on how well it works in terms of performance. The performance discussion of Flash has, of course, always been device specific with lower-end phones struggling at times to keep up with streaming video or other Flash content. Other arguments have focused on the “bugginess” of Flash as a platform as a whole and how this translated to Android devices as well.
Now, I love me some Android but, let’s be honest, browsing website on my phone is terrible. The only reason anyone would choose to look at a mobile version of a website on their phone is because they don’t have a computer or tablet handy. Browsing for Android has always been clunky, slow, and inconsistent across many different Android phones — regardless of processing power. Certain websites don’t even offer mobile versions of their websites and, more importantly, Android has grown enough so that any website or service worth visiting already has an app or, at the very least, an RSS feed. There’s simply no point in fighting my awkward browser to read Engadget when I can download their app from the Android Market.
Combine the atrocious Android browsing experience with a sometimes finicky version of Flash and the actual usability goes out the window. Now, this is the sticking point of the argument for or against Flash on Android — what the individual users want. Because as much as I was not impressed by how difficult it was to get to any Flash related content, there is someone else that thought it was amazing. Again, why go to YouTube.com instead of using the YouTube app? As much as proponents of the Android + Flash system love to brag about it, I bet 9 times out of 10 they opted for using apps over their browser.
Make no mistake, the real point of pushing Adobe Flash on Android was the contrast the platform with Apple. If you’re a consumer and looking for any alternative to iOS, which is often accused of being a closed, restrictive ecosystem, then Android has to sell itself as the exact opposite — a platform that lets you access all of the Internet, even Flash. Flash for Android was part of Android’s continuing narrative of openness and freedom — that it can literally do anything (the same moniker that Motorola promotes in its “Droid Does” ads). In a way, it almost doesn’t matter if Flash was good, slow or buggy. Flash was one of several propaganda prongs that Android used to generate its successful rise to the top of the mobile device market and contrast itself with Apple.
Anti-Flash proponents have been bizarrely claiming that Flash’s death is somehow a victory for Steve Jobs, but nearly everyone recognized that HTML5 was the wave of the future. Moreover, no one can underestimate Android’s ability to run Flash as a big selling point for potential smartphone buyers. Google and Adobe successfully adopted Flash for a time period that was critical in Android’s growth — especially considering Android that many of the apps today that have usurped Flash (e.g. website specific apps) didn’t exist when Flash for Android was released.
In the end, most users won’t miss Flash or even notice that it is gone. It was a thing people used every once in awhile, but, more importantly, Flash did its job by serving as a powerful propaganda tool for the growth of Android.