Flash 10.1 Seriously Slows Down Google Nexus One in Speed Tests

The infant version of Google's Android mobile OS, 2.2 Froyo, is just rolling out to a single device (the Google Nexus One) now. You can check out more in-depth impressions here, but perhaps the most buzzed-about feature is the integration of Adobe Flash 10.1. Android can now do it, iPhone still can't--that's the refrain from the antiPhone crowd. But these speed tests, conducted by PocketNow, show that you might not want Flash. At least not yet.

These tests aren't particularly scientific, but they're thorough enough to give a pretty good idea of real-world performance of Android 2.2 with and without Flash. PocketNow compares a Nexus One with Android 2.2, an Apple iPhone running OS 4.0 beta, and an HTC HD2 running Windows Mobile 6.5 (using Opera Mini). The results are a little bit upsetting, at least for those who were excited about Flash games and video on a mobile device.

Simply put, Flash looks like it's a major drag on speed. When Google introduced Android 2.2 at last week's Google I/O event, they bragged about its incredible speed, and it looks like they weren't lying--the Nexus One handily beats both the iPhone and HD2 in page loading time. However, that's only with Flash uninstalled.

With Flash installed, the iPhone smokes the Nexus One, with the HD2 just about on par with the Flash-enabled Nexus. Even worse, Flash doesn't seem to have all the bugs ironed out--performance isn't just slow to load, but is very choppy while scrolling and often buggy. Sure, Flash-enabled ads show up more accurately, with animations intact, but is that worth what seems to be a huge sacrifice in usability?

To be fair, Flash games seem to load really nicely (I love the long-press-to-go-fullscreen interface) and video is mostly intact (though whether Hulu works is a toss-up on any given day). And it's great that Flash is a separate app, rather than built in to Android itself. That means Adobe can issue updates without having to wait for a full OS update, which is especially nice since it seems like they need to send one out as soon as possible. It also means you can easily uninstall it if you would rather have speed than flashy ads, games, or video.

The interesting question here is, "Was Steve Jobs right about Flash?" Granted, 10.1 is a beta, but Adobe has been bragging that Flash works great on a mobile device, and 10.1 hasn't proved that so far. Is it worth the performance hit to have more accurately rendered websites? If Flash can't iron out the bugs, I have a feeling that users will only install it temporarily when they want to watch a video or play a game--it's too harmful to stay unmonitored otherwise.

Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in San Francisco (no link for that one--you'll have to do the legwork yourself).

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