Why Doesn't Android Support Flash? Does It Even Matter?

New web standards and operating systems made Adobe Flash obsolete

2011 Consumer Electronics Show Showcases Latest Technology Innovations
Marziah Karch

When Android was first released, one of the differentiating features between Android and iOS was that Android supported Adobe Flash. That was one of the few differentiating factors. Android 2.2 Froyo supported Flash, but Android 4.1 Jelly Bean took that support away. Here's why you won't find Flash on Android devices any longer.

The information below applies no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

Adobe No Longer Supports Flash

There are many reasons why Adobe no longer supports Flash. Here's the longer version of why Adobe discontinued mobile support after years of working to make Flash an industry standard.

Adobe Flash logo

Flash Was Proprietary Software

Steve Jobs declared that iOS devices would not support Flash and that they would never support Flash. Apple iOS didn't support Flash because Flash was a proprietary system created by Adobe and not an open Web standard.

Open alternatives were already available, such as HTML5. The existing Flash content was old and developed for mouse rollovers, not touch, so it would not be beneficial for phone users.

Steve Jobs giving keynote address

Flash performed poorly on mobile devices and used a large amount of battery power. Steve Jobs' anti-Flash talk was because Adobe delayed development of other Adobe products. For example, it took Adobe years to develop a 64-bit version of Photoshop for Mac.

Adobe may have thought that Apple would adopt Flash after Android users got used to using Flash. But for the most part, Steve Jobs was right. Flash on mobile devices was not part of the future. 

Flash Drained Batteries and Performed Poorly on Phones

When Flash became available on Android Froyo, it used a lot of battery life. Playback was often jittery and games didn't perform well using Flash. In addition, TV networks became nervous about people watching content on phones and blocked people from viewing Flash streaming video on Android tablets and phones. 

Phone with dead battery

Flash Didn't Support All Operating Systems

Adobe had to certify that Flash would work on each and every configuration that supported it. This is a much harder task for mobile than it is for desktop computers. On desktop computers, there are only two major operating systems, Windows OS and Mac OS (Adobe Flash didn't support Linux).

In the case of macOS, there's a known hardware configuration, since Apple makes them all. In Windows, the OS is created around minimum hardware standards. Supporting just those two operating systems makes Adobe's job easier, and it makes a Flash developer's job easier since there aren't as many screen sizes and interactive elements to develop around. For that, Adobe ended all support of Flash just as the Android platform was starting to take off. 

In a 2017 announcement, Adobe confirmed support for Flash would end in 2020. The combined adoption of the open HTML5 and CSS3 standards, which enable much of the animation power previously reserved only for Flash, forced Adobe to end Flash support. Even as web browsers and other technology move on, you can still find Flash in older websites that haven't updated to the HTML5 or CSS3 standards.