Whenever someone asks me to recommend an app that supports Flash videos on their iPad, I recommend Puffin Web Browser ($2.99). It’s an attractive and functional app, which is why it has been added to our Best of iPhone Apps page.
If you’re new to Apple’s mobile devices, you might not know there’s no default Flash support on iOS devices. Whenever you try to play a video on your iOS device and it asks you instead to download Adobe Flash Player, then you will need to try Puffin.
There are other good web browsers for the iPhone and iPad, including Atomic Web, Dolphine Browser, and Chrome. But CloudMosa’s Puffin Web Browser 3.0, compatible with iOS devices running iOS 5.0 or later, is the only one that downloads and plays Flash videos without lots of hiccups and hanging.
You can test drive Puffin by downloading the free version which puts a two week limitation on Flash Support. You can then visit your favorite flash-only video site to see how Puffin performs. Flash support may not be enabled by default on the app, so if a Flash video doesn’t play, tap on the top-right menu icon, and select Settings > Flash Support.
For the best viewing of videos, you probably should turn your device to landscape view, and then tap Theatre Mode inside the app menu to view the full screen. Flash content loads very fast and playback is smooth. When the app crashes it will recover your previously opened tabs and ask if you want to re-download them. I’ve tried a few other iOS apps that promise Flash support, but none of them performed as well as Puffin.
Notice also (in the first screenshot above) that there are a range interface and other tweaks setting up Puffin the way you want it, such as selecting a different color theme, blocking pop-ups and saving passwords. You can also clear cache, cookies, download history, and clear form data faster in Puffin than in Apple’s Safari.
Home Page & Add-Ons
The Puffin homepage opens with a few bookmarked popular sites, including Facebook, Yahoo!, and Google. The app keeps track of the sites you visit the most, so you can easily tap to them without bringing up the bookmarks page. You can also change the wallpaper on the homepage of the app as well by tapping on the blue Settings button.
There are also add-ons for sharing pages to social networks, including Pocket and Readability. For game sites where you’re doing lots of tapping, Puffin includes a built-in virtual trackpad for faster and more precision tapping, and a Gamepad with cross pad controls. As you will see, Puffin keeps most all of the app features tucked away inside the sliding side menubar (accessed by dragging your finger from either the left and right edge of the screen) so there’s less distraction with visible buttons.
While Puffin doesn’t have the iCloud support you get for sharing bookmarks across your iOS and Mac devices, you can export opened tabs and import them to your other iOS device. Unfortunately, however, adding bookmarks is a three-tap process (tap menu icon > Bookmarks > Add Bookmark). Your saved bookmarks though can easily be accessed by tapping the bookmarks button from any webpage.
Not having the bookmarks and tabs visible at the top of the homepage provides more screen real estate for viewing webpage content. Puffin also supports downloading files to your Dropbox, as well as to the iOS Camera Roll.
There are few limitations to Puffin that are listed on the app’s iTunes page. The browser can only access public web sites from US geolocations, and due to Internet censorship, Puffin Browser service is blocked in China and Saudi Arabia.
Worth the Upgrade
Even if you don’t use Puffin for watching lots of videos, the paid version of Puffin is still worth the download as a fast, clean and in many cases a faster alternative to Safari. You can also use the app to support additional favorite websites. Puffin is also available for Android devices, in addition to free Academy versions for K-12 schools.
Let us know what you think of this web browser and how it performs for you.