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Puffin iPhone Web Browser App Review

About.com Rating 2 Star Rating

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Puffin Browser

The complex state of Flash playback in Puffin Browser

Puffin Browser copyright CloudMosa Inc.

Sept. 19, 2011

The Good

  • Succeeds in playing Flash files
  • Loads pages quickly

The Bad

  • Flash playback is choppy and slow
  • Lacks some common features, such as tabbed and fullscreen browsing
  • Doesn't load pages in proper screensize for iPhone

The Price
US$0.99

Purchase at iTunes

Puffin, one of a number of browser apps that claim to play Flash video files, can back up its claim: I was able to get Hulu videos to play on my iPhone. Unfortunately they were choppy and hard to watch. If Puffin can correct this issue, it will have a solid, speedy browser on its hands.

     Related: Top Flash-Enabled iPhone Browsers

Flash Playback, But Not Perfectly

Much is made of the fact that the iPhone and iOS don't support Flash. That lack of support has opened space for third-party browsers that do support Flash. One of these browsers, Puffin, actually succeeds in doing something that many others can't: It successfully plays Hulu files. Though there is a Hulu app available, Hulu Plus requires an $8/month subscription and some users may not want to pay that. And since the iPhone won't play Flash, these users are stuck without Hulu. Puffin and its sibling apps promise to change that.

For some apps, the promise is hollow, since Hulu detects that the browser is running on an iPhone and blocks it. That's part of what makes Puffin's being able to play Hulu video notable. Unfortunately, though, once playback begins, things get a bit less impressive.

While audio plays pretty well, video is another story. In fact, the video really doesn't seem like video at all, instead looking like a series of still photos strung together with transitions. There's really not much motion or action to speak of, so you're left watching individual frames, rather than smooth video. On the iPad 2, with its faster processor, the situation is much better, but playback is still far from smooth.

Lags and Loads

One kind of strange behavior that Puffin exhibits is that the page tends to load only when you scroll down it, rather than being fully loaded and allowing for the smooth scrolling that users are accustomed to with Safari. This isn't a major issue, but it's the kind of polish that sets Apple's apps apart from some third-party offerings.

Another strange thing that Puffin does is that it doesn't load pages to fit the iPhone's screen, as other browsers do. Instead, it loads full-size pages on the iPhone's small screen, meaning that you often need to zoom out or scroll to see the entire page. You can set Puffin to default to sites' mobile versions, but it seems odd that it often doesn't load pages to fit screen size.

Puffin also lacks some increasingly common iPhone browser features, such as the ability to import bookmarks, and tabbed and fullscreen browsing.

Speedier Than Safari

On the positive side, Puffin is faster than Safari in many cases.

Speed on Wi-Fi
Speed is in seconds to load the full desktop (not mobile) page, Puffin is listed first.

  • Apple.com: 4 vs. 4
  • CNN.com: 4 vs. 6
  • ESPN.com: 4 vs. 4
  • HoopsHype.com/Rumors.html: 3 vs. 4
  • iPod.About.com: 3 vs. 3

Speed on 3G
Speed is in seconds to load the page, Puffin is listed first.

  • Apple.com: 5 vs. 4
  • CNN.com: 7 vs. 9
  • ESPN.com: 6 vs. 6
  • HoopsHype.com/Rumors.html: 3 vs. 5
  • iPod.About.com: 4 vs. 4

The Bottom Line

Given its relative dearth of other features, to succeed, Puffin's Flash playback needs to be very strong. Unfortunately it's not right now. That may change, especially with the debut of the more-powerful iPhone 5 this fall. When combined with its speed, good Flash playback would make for a nice package. I wouldn't recommend using Puffin for your day-to-day browsing yet, but keep an eye on it. Things could change.

What You’ll Need

An iPhone, iPod touch and iPad running iPhone OS 4.2 or later. 

Purchase at iTunes

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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