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.
Skyfire Launches 4.0 Version of its Popular Android Mobile Browser with Eight New Killer Features
Skyfire Unveils Customizable SkyBar With Twitter, Groupon and Google Reader Integration; Converts Video Feature to Premium In-App Option for New Users
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (April 21st, 2011) – Today Skyfire, maker of the award-winning and popular mobile browser, announces the release of Skyfire 4.0 for Android -- its highly anticipated next-generation Android browser. Skyfire 4.0 for Android allows users to personalize their SkyBarTM toolbar, while adding eight new SkyBar features. While the basic browser and toolbar will remain free to Android users, Skyfire is also introducing a premium in-app purchase to enable its Video feature, which draws on Skyfire’s cloud-based servers to optimize videos from across the web. As a thank you to over 3 million early beta users of the app, all existing users will be “grandfathered” in for free access for the lifetime of their device.
Skyfire’s SkyBar toolbar is now scrollable and customizable, allowing for a larger and more personalized number of features to be positioned on the toolbar. Beyond the ‘Video’, ‘Facebook’, ‘Fireplace’, ‘Popular’, ‘Ideas’ & ‘Like’ buttons, Skyfire has added full Twitter, Groupon and Google Reader integration, a ‘Share’ button, Sports, News and Finance feeds, and a ‘Settings’ button.
Skyfire for Android is one of the most popular applications in the Android Market and has seen over 3 million downloads since launching in April 2010. The mobile browser was upgraded to critical acclaim in November 2010 with integrated social media and Facebook capabilities, and the app currently has a user rating of 4.5 stars out of a possible five stars, based on tens of thousands of reviews in the Android Market. This latest update will continue to build on Skyfire’s strong track record of innovation.
With v4.0, Skyfire for Android will begin offering its video optimization as an optional $2.99 premium feature, unlocked via an in-app purchase after a three day free trial. The feature pays for itself for most users around the world by allowing users to watch more video with less data usage (where users have capped or metered data plans), as well as increasing battery life.
As part of a special, limited time offer, Skyfire is offering the video optimization feature free to all Verizon customers downloading Skyfire 4.0 for Android. Skyfire will be available in the VCastTM Apps section of the Android Market for Verizon users during this promotion.
Skyfire 4.0 for Android, including the video optimization feature, will remain free for all of the over 3 million beta testers around the globe who have used the app to date, in gratitude for their support in helping Skyfire grow and improve.
“With Skyfire 4.0 for Android, we’re enabling users to customize their browser toolbar to fit their interests, from sports, to social networks, to finance, news, and local deals,” said Jeff Glueck, CEO of Skyfire. “While the basic browser will remain free, with the launch of Google’s Android In-App purchase platform, the time has come to make our video cloud acceleration service a premium feature that reflects the investment we make to support each user in our cloud. We deliver state-of-the art web video tuned to your current mobile connection bandwidth, saving 75% on average data loads. For users who enjoy web video, or who are on metered data, the service can pay for itself in the first month of use.”
New Features in Skyfire 4.0 for Android include:
· Customizable SkyBar – Skyfire’s toolbar is now configurable and expandable, enabling users to create their own flavor of Skyfire experience. With the new scrollable SkyBar, users now have access to fourteen Skyfire features and have the ability to enable, disable and position each button as they see fit.
· New SkyBar Features –Skyfire has added eight new features:
o Twitter – Login to the ‘Twitter’ Button to have one-touch access to Twitter streams. Tweet, search, and check in with the Twittersphere without leaving the Skyfire browser. (And yes, watch videos shared on Twitter with just one click.)
o Groupon – With the ‘Groupon’ Button, the SkyBar is now delivering nearby deals so you can do a quick check on the deal of the day at all times.
o Share – Easily share websites, articles, pictures & videos with the touch of the ‘Share’ button, a feature previously accessible through the Skyfire menu.
o Google Reader – Use the ‘Google Reader’ Button to keep up with feeds from your favorite sites. Google Reader keeps you in the know by constantly checking your favorite news sites and blogs for new content.
o Sports, News & Finance – Three new buttons, ‘Sports’, ‘News’ & ‘Finance’, have been added to the SkyBar to bring one-touch access to the latest events.
o Settings – The ‘Settings’ button could easily be labeled the ‘Customize’ button. Use this to enable, disable or position SkyBar features to your personal preferences.
· General Tips – We’ve added a host of new in-browser tips, tricks & tutorials to help users get them most out of browsing with Skyfire.
Skyfire is dedicated to using cloud computing to improve multimedia experiences on mobile phones, and has created the first “Compression as a Service” (CAAS) offering for wireless carriers and device makers. Skyfire’s technology has been visible to consumers through the Skyfire browser app, which has enabled Skyfire to refine its technology with millions of users.
The app was named the #2 App of All-Time for Android by TechCrunch, and was the top pick in a PC World September 2010 comparison of all Android browsers. Skyfire won the Best Mobile Application-People’s Voice at the 2009 Webby Awards and was named a Top App of 2009 by the New York Times’ Gadgetwise. Skyfire’s iPhone browser, launched in November 2010, quickly reached the top selling app rank on the Apple App StoreSM, as the first way for iOS users to access videos designed for the Adobe Flash PlayerTM. Skyfire was recently recognized by Light Reading as the #4 StartUp to watch in 2011.