We mentioned last month that the folks at Skyfire were working on a big update that would bring a new set of features as well as a new pricing model, and today is the day it becomes available. There was some talk about that pricing model, so let's get that cleared up right away. All the features you currently use in Skyfire will remain free. The pricing revolves around what they're calling CAAS (Compression As A Service). It uses Google's new Android in-app purchasing to pay for "video cloud acceleration". Pay a one time fee of $2.99 and Skyfire renders and compresses video content on their servers, which offers up a more mobile optimized experience and saves both data usage and battery life. Now before you start grumbling, Skyfire also says the three million of you who currently use Skyfire are grandfathered in and there will be no charge. In addition, users who download Skyfire 4.0 through the VCast apps section of the Market n your Verizon phones will also get the service free. Now we can all grumble a little bit at content deals, but not too much. $2.99 isn't a bad price at all if you need to watch your data usage.
Along with the improved cloud acceleration, some other changes come along, notably Groupon, Twitter and Google Reader support. There's a few changes in the SkyBar as well -- check them out, along with some screencaps and the press release, after the break.
The SkyBar is now customizable. You can pick and choose from the 14 Skyfire features, and the new scrollable bar allows you to position your buttons as you see fit. Some of the features you might love, and some you may never use -- we all have different usage methods. Now you can keep the tools you'll use handy, and the others out of sight.
The new Twitter button gives you one touch access to your Twitter feed, Twitter search, and composing a Tweet. Of course there's in-line viewing of video using the cloud compression as well. You do all this without ever closing your browser. I like Twitter. I can see myself using this -- a lot.
The Google Reader button is a quick way to access your (you guessed it) Google Reader account. Give it a click and you can browse through your feeds and check out what's going on, again without ever leaving the browser. I like Google Reader as well. Cool, I'm grandfathered in :)
The Share feature has moved from the menu down to the Skybar, and you still can share webpages, videos, pictures and just about any other web content with apps that have a sharing feature coded in them. Things like Dropbox, Gmail, Twitter clients, that sort of thing.
All new in Skyfire 4.0 are Skybar buttons for Groupon, Sports, News and Finance. The Groupon button opens a window full of local deals, and the Sports, News, and Finance buttons open windows with the appropriate content for quick reference or information without interrupting you browsing session.
It looks like Skyfire has turned out to be the Swiss army knife of Android browsers, and has something to offer for just about anyone. the new pricing model turned out to be free from the Market with an in-app purchase for the premium content so there's no reason not to give it a try. You'll find the download link below under the press release.