For the past few years, Adobe Flash has proved quite controversial. Ever since Apple opted to block support for it on iOS – thereby forcing anyone who wanted to use the iPhone or iPad to rely on other solutions (usually HTML5) its future has remained in doubt, with only traditional desktop and laptop users still regularly using it. Following Apple’s lead, Microsoft has no current plans to introduce Flash on Windows Phone (although in the early days there were moves to do so) – so the obvious answer to anyone wanting to access Flash-based streaming media and games using a mobile device would be Android. This has been the case for a few years now, but in the past few months Google has opted to drop Flash from Android. Despite the lack of native support for Flash or the ability to easily install it through Google Play, it is actually possible to install the software on a modern Android device and reap the media streaming and gaming benefits.
How to Install Flash on Android
Installing Flash can be done in a matter of minutes. The following steps require you to configure your Android device to allow installation of software from non-official sources (that is, allowing the use of third-party marketplaces) as well as use an alternative browser. A note of warning: Experience with a couple of different devices shows that this fix is not guaranteed to work. But if you’re missing being able to use Flash, it’s certainly worth spending a few minutes trying it out.
Preparation: Grab Your Downloads
Before enabling Adobe Flash on your Android Jelly Bean phone or tablet you will need to prepare by downloading the Android Flash Player APK file, which you will find at the XDA Developers forum. Make sure you download the most recent version, which is found via a link in the first post in the forum thread. Alternatively, you might simply Google “android flash player apk” and use one of the resulting links to find the file. Be sure to use a reputable source for the APK, and have an anti-virus app installed just in case. With this saved in an easy-to-find place on PC, you should then download and install the Firefox browser for Android, available from Google Play. You will need to do this because the default Chrome browser doesn’t support Flash. (There is also a version of the Flash Player that works with the Dolphin browser, available via the same forum thread above).
Configuring Android for Non-Google Play Apps
Due to Android dropping support for Flash, it is no longer available in Google Play, which is why you downloaded the file above from the XDA Developers website. By default, Android Jelly Bean device will block you from being able to install apps not via Google Play. Fortunately, this can be enabled using the following steps. Open Settings > Security and enable the Unknown Sources option. You will need to observe the warning – this basically explains that your phone will be more vulnerable to malware if you install apps that weren’t download through Google Play – and click OKif you accept.
Installing Adobe Flash on Android
You will now be ready to copy the downloaded APK to your SD Card. Once this is done, browse your phone for the file (using a tool such as ES File Explorer or Root Explorer) and tap it to begin installation. (If you prefer, you can use a different approach for installation – rather than download the file to your computer, download it directly to your phone and launch it from the notification bar.) You could also just put it in your Dropbox. After tapping the APK file, you will be asked if you want to begin installation. Click Install to proceed; it should only take a few seconds for the process to complete. Click Opento check the Flash Player settings, selecting your Firefox browser to view the options.
Viewing Media with Adobe Flash
You will then need to configure Firefox to run Adobe Flash seamlessly. By default you need to tap the screen to enable a Flash application to run, but this step removes the requirement. Open Firefox, tap the menu button and open Settings > Plugins and choose Enabled. Videos and games should then run smoothly on your Jelly Bean phone or tablet. Should you encounter a website that detects that you are running a phone/tablet browser and doesn’t serve Flash content as a result, take advantage of the Phony add-on for Firefox mobile, which can be used to trick websites into thinking that you’re using a desktop browser.
Conclusion: A Solution that Works (For Most…)
Concerns about Adobe Flash largely derive from a perception that the software is prone to bugs and vulnerabilities, but these things have not prevented Microsoft or Apple from blocking its use on their desktop platforms. However, you can see why Google would want to avoid the user experience becoming tarnished, particularly when the balance of power between Android and iOS is so even. One bad Flash-related incident and millions of users could jump ship, so matching Apple’s stance is a wise way of avoiding this. It’s just sad that it should happen on a platform that has previously allowed users to run Flash, but at least there is a workaround for anyone who feels that removing the software from Google Play is overkill. Let us know in the comments what phone or tablet you’re using, and whether you had success.