Cloud Browse lets you view Flash on iPhone

Sneaking past Apple's aversion to Flash on the iPhone, the free Cloud Browse app connects you to a remote PC where you can browse the Web and view your favorite Flash content.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

If you can't view Flash sites directly through your iPhone, why not connect to a remote PC where you can?

Cloud Browse delivers Flash content on your iPhone.
Cloud Browse delivers Flash content to your iPhone. AlwaysOn Technologies

That's the idea behind the free Cloud Browse app from a company called AlwaysOn Technologies run by developer Lida Tang.

Through Cloud Browse, you can connect your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad to a remote computer running in one of AlwaysOn's data centers. Instead of surfing sites directly, you control your own browsing session on the remote PC, which can pull up just about any Web site content, including Flash. Those pages are then streamed to your iPhone.

The Cloud Browse app works pretty much the same as other mobile browsers such as Safari and Opera. You swipe and tap your finger to move around the screen, select a keyboard icon to type a URL or other text, and tap on a page icon to open up more than one page at a time.

Like many app developers, AlwaysOn offers both a free and paid version of the app.

The free version naturally comes with certain limitations. You're stuck viewing videos at a slow frame rate--a way for the company to cut down on bandwidth costs. Only a certain number of free users are allowed to connect at one time, so you may not get access if the remote PC is too busy. Free users can also get bumped off if a paying customer needs to jump on board.

A premium or paid account grants you a full 30 frames per second of video streaming and 1GB of storage to save bookmarks and other data. The service also tries to direct you to the closest data center to beef up performance. A premium account is currently available as an invitation-only beta but should open to the public soon, according to the company. An article about Cloud Browse in USAToday says that a paid account would run $9.99 a month.

Whichever type of account you opt for, a few other limitations remain. The service is available only in the U.S. and Canada for now as AlwaysOn's data centers are based in the U.S. But there are plans to branch out into Europe and Asia. Due to bandwidth restrictions, Cloud Browse works only over a Wi-Fi connection--no 3G, but Tang notes that he's working on getting 3G access.

Though the service runs on the iPad, it's optimized for the smaller screens of the iPhone and iPod Touch. But an iPad specific edition is in the works. And Hulu fans are out of luck. So far, the only well-known Flash-based site that it doesn't work with is Hulu, which seems to specifically block access based on browser type or IP address and apparently won't play ball with Cloud Browse.

What about security issues tapping into a remote PC? Tang says the app is safe and that your surfing history is erased when you disconnect from the remote PC.

I tried Cloud Browse's free access on my iPod Touch via Wi-Fi. I found Web browsing and page refreshes to be very slow, certainly slower than using a mobile browser directly. I tried playing some Flash videos, which did pop up. But there were often hiccups in the streaming of those videos, so I wasn't able to get a smooth performance out of them. And a few times I did get the message that the server for anonymous access (meaning free) users was full, so I had to wait and try again later.

Given the war of words between Apple and Adobe, and Apple CEO Steve Jobs' known dislike for Flash, it's a fair bet we'll probably never see support for Flash on any of Apple's mobile devices. Those of you who still crave those Flash videos might want to check out Cloud Browse, though the free version seems too slow and the paid version may sport too high a price tag.

Of course, you can also replicate the same experience on your own. Using remote access apps like LogMeIn Ignition or TeamViewer, you can connect to your own local PC from an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, and then surf the Web remotely. But of course, that means you'd need to power up your PC each time you want to view your favorite Flash sites from your mobile gadget. Hmm, any other ideas out there?