Skyfire Web Browser for iPad (iTunes link), $4.99 USD, was finally brought to the iPad on December 22nd, 2010. As many of you probably know, Skyfire for iPhone and iPod Touch has been, and still is, a huge success in the App Store due to its ability to play Flash videos. Now let’s get started.
Web browsers are used to browse websites online and Skyfire is no different. But what makes this web browser stand out from the rest of the web browsers available in the App Store is, as mentioned earlier, its ability to play Flash videos (Figure 1). In general, the browser plays Flash videos quite well. It takes about 10-15 seconds to detect and analyze the video and another 15-20 seconds to get it ready for viewing. Some of you may find this long, so you have to keep in mind that no other web browser in the App Store is capable of doing this.
Figure 1: Flash video ready to be played
Another great feature of this web browser is its social networking integration. This is, by far, my favorite feature of this application. Skyfire Labs, Inc has done such a great job with this feature that I don’t know if I will be able to switch back to a regular browser. I will explain how this feature is presented later on, but I just want to say that with this feature, there will be no need to open a new tab or switch applications in order to check your Facebook, Twitter or Google Reader feeds anymore; these can be done with a simple tap of your finger.
The last neat little feature of this application is its sharing capabilities. When you find a website that you want your friends to check out, you can share the URL very easily through several services (Figure 2). The services that can be used are Facebook, Twitter, Email, Delicious, Google Reader, Read It Later, Instapaper and Pinboard.
Figure 2: Available services for URL sharing
One thing that I don’t like about this web browser is that I find it a bit slower than some of the other web browsers that I’ve used on my iPad. It’s not a huge problem, but I notice it. Even with Skyfire’s ability to play Flash videos, it doesn’t seem like all websites are compatible. I’ve tried Megavideo, Hulu and Newgrounds, but Skyfire doesn’t seem to even detect a video, which is quite disappointing. I also wish that Skyfire had a bookmarks bar. Personally, it would make my life easier.
Graphical User Interface (GUI)
Skyfire has a basic web browser interface. The top toolbar has a very traditional look. It has a back, forward, new tab, bookmarks, history, add bookmark, settings and full screen buttons. The browser also contains an address and Google Search bar. Settings allows you to choose whether to load the website as its mobile version or its desktop version, which is quite useful. It also supports private browsing that doesn’t save history, cache, passwords and cookies. You can also choose your homepage, clear your history, cookies, cache, etc. Full Screen mode is exactly what it sounds like. Basically it hides the toolbars so you can view the website on the whole screen of your iPad.
Now the bottom toolbar is a little more foreign to the average user. There are eight buttons that allow you to use the features that have been mentioned above. The eight buttons include: Video, Facebook, Twitter, Fireplace, Popular, Reader, Like and Share (Figure 3). Video, Facebook, Twitter and Share’s features should be quite obvious. Reader’s features is obvious as well, it displays your Google Reader RSS feeds. Fireplace, Popular and Like are less obvious. Fireplace allows you to view all the links that your friends have posted. Popular allows you to view all the popular Facebook pages and Like allows you to view all the things that your Facebook friends ‘liked’.
Figure 3: Bottom toolbar buttons
What I really love about these buttons is not their features, but how they are presented. When you press one of the buttons, for example Twitter, a miniature window will pop up and display your Twitter feed (Figure 4). There’s no need to leave the website that you are currently on, no need to open a new tab, no need to open a separate application; everything is done within the web browser. This makes things very efficient. While you’re browsing a website and you want to check one of your feeds, press the button, check everything and you’re done and back on your website. It makes things so easy and quick.
Figure 4: Twitter feed within the browser
Whether you use a desktop, laptop, or tablet, web browsers are something that people use daily. Web browsers have become one of the main tools of communication between your friends and family. Whether you are emailing someone, looking at someone’s new Facebook photos or reading someone’s tweets on Twitter, web browsers are used to stay connected. In general, Skyfire, as a web browser, has a very high reuse value. Though, it really depends on the user’s preference, as well. If someone prefers another browser over Skyfire, then it won’t be of much use. But if someone uses a browser everyday and loved Skyfire, then it’ll be used a lot.
Value for Money
This obviously comes down to personal preference but at its current price, I must say that I don’t find this application worth the $4.99. It has a lot of great features, but I still find it a little pricey. I was quite disappointed with the lack of compatibility for some websites. For someone who is in desperate need of watching Flash videos on their iPad, I guess it’ll seem worth it, but unfortunately, I am not that someone. As I mentioned early, I absolutely love the bottom toolbar, but even with this new found love, I still find the price a little steep for my liking.