Does Flash Really Sap Your iPhone Battery?

Written by Clive Webster

January 25, 2011 // 2:53 p.m.

Tags: #apple #battery #flash #ipad #iphone

Famously, you can do almost anything on an iPhone apart from run Adobe Flash; a move that Apple has always defended on the grounds that Flash isn’t finger-friendly and that it drains the battery life too much.

According to IT Pro, this firmly held line has led to ‘one of the most bitter and unresolved disputes in the technology industry.’ What's more, the site has also undertaken some testing to discover the truth about the iPhone Flash video and battery life debate.
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IT Pro sets the battle-lines between Apple and Adobe by pointing out that ‘Apple’s backing of H.264 over Flash has helped increase the popularity of H.264. For example, YouTube has converted its entire library to H.264 for playback on iOS devices.

If this trend is widened to all mobile devices, one of Adobe’s primary products will be undermined by the increasing demand and importance of smartphones and tablet PCs. However, if Apple is incorrect to deny iOS devices access to Flash, alternative mobile OSes such as Android would become even more popular, leaving Apple’s shiny iPhones and iPads gathering dust on the shelves.

IT Pro’s testing methods involved creating two video files of the same movie, ‘one using the H.264 codec in a .m4v container and the other using the Sorenson Spark codec, one of the most popular codecs used in online Flash videos before the rise of H.264, in a .flv container.

The tester then played back these videos in a few different playback apps, measuring the time before the battery of a Samsung Galaxy Tab and an Apple iPod Touch gave out. The test setup was actually quite complicated to ensure comparability, so for more details, see IT Pro’s test setup page.

The results were surprising to say the least – Apple’s Videos app was more frugal with the power draw than the VLC app, for example. ‘Either Apple's in-house app developers are very good (or have access to some trick or a private API for prolonging battery life) or Applidium, the developers of the VLC app, still have a lot of work to do.

Meanwhile, the Android-powered Galaxy Tab lasted for half an hour less when playing the Flash version of the video than when playing the H.264 file. What's more, the difference was even greater on the Apple device.

For a bit more analysis, it's also worth heading over to the conclusion page.

Is Apple completely justified or totally wrong to ban Flash from iPhones and iPads? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.
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