Updating Flash Player on Android now requires a hack

Patching software is, obviously, a big part of Defensive Computing. Tablet operating systems have upped the bar on patching, installing bug fixes is significantly easier on a tablet than a desktop computer (regardless of the desktop OS). Except for Flash on Android.

Granted, Flash has been somewhat abandoned on Android devices. For example, Adobe does not support it on the latest Android iterations (4.1 and 4.2). But, it is still supported on Android 2.x, 3.x and 4.0. Well, sort of supported. While Adobe still releases bug fixes, installing them is an adventure. 

At first, Android users lost the ability to update the Flash Player in the normal way, something I wrote about last month. But since then, the procedure to update the Flash Player has changed again. Android users now have to resort to a bit of hacking to get the bug fixes released on November 7, 2012.  

flash.in_.android.market.jpg

On Android 4.0, the latest version is currently 11.1.115.27, replacing version 11.1.115.20. On Android 2.x and 3.x the latest version is now 11.1.111.24, replacing 11.1.111.19. 

Android users can see which version is installed by either checking with the OS or running an online test. 

To check the OS on Android 2.3, press Settings -> Applications -> Manage applications. Look for the Adobe Flash Player and press on it to see the full version number. On Android 4.0 navigate from Settings to Application manager. Look for the Adobe Flash Player and press on it to see the full version number. 

Alternatively, in an Android browser that supports Flash, you can visit either of these online testers from Adobe. 

www.adobe.com/software/flash/about/

www.adobe.com/swf/software/flash/about/flashAbout_info_small.swf

The first one reports the latest version of Flash for many operating systems, but omits Android. The second one is uncluttered and easy to read thanks to its large font. If remembering these URLs is too much, you can find them at my flashtester.org site. 

Last time, I suggested using the web version of the Google Play store to update the Flash Player. Since then, Flash has been removed from play.google.com.   

Another URL that used to work also now results in page not found error.

Nonetheless, the Flash Player can still be found in the Android Market/Play Store using the market protocol on an Android device. Simply point an Android browser to

market://details?id=com.adobe.flashplayer

Unfortunately, this Play Store page will not update the Flash Player. The first hint of trouble is the outdated last-update date of October 8th. When I first gathered notes for this blog, there was an update button but the update always failed with an [RPC:AEC:0] error. Since then, the update button has been removed. 

Without a GUI based update procedure, Android users are forced to do what Windows users have been doing all along: find the software on your own, download an executable and then manually run the downloaded file to install the software. How quaint. 

On Android this is referred to as sideloading and it needs to be enabled in the operating system. 

To enable sideloading in Android 4.0, go to the Settings menu, then Security, then look for "Unknown sources" in the Device administration section. Turn on the "Allow installation of non-Market apps" checkbox. In Android 2.3, from Settings, navigate to Applications, then "Unknown sources". Turn on the  "Allow installation of non-Market applications" checkbox. 

android.sideload.warning.jpg

Both versions of Android issue a security warning when you enable sideloading. The warning above is from version 4.0. 

The only safe place to get the November 6th version of the Flash Player is from Adobe. In a recent forum posting, Chris Campbell and Dave Seropian of Adobe explained both where to download the Flash Player and how to install it

You can get the latest Flash Player from an archive that Adobe maintains. The files for Android 2.x, 3.x and 4.0 are .apk files, the Android equivalent of an EXE in Windows.

For Android 4.0, version 11.1.115.27 can be downloaded here.

For Android 2.x and 3.x, version 11.1.111.24 can be downloaded here

These links point to macromedia.com rather than Adobe.com. Years back, Adobe bought Macromedia and some of their links still use the old Macromedia name. 

flash.apk_.downloaded.jpg

After downloading the .apk file, press on it (see above) to start the installation.

Expect a warning, first thing. Below is the warning from Android 4.0.  

flash.player.install.warning.jpg

On Android 2.3 the warning was "This is a system application. Do you still want to replace it? All previous user data will be saved."  

After the new version has been installed, you can verify that all went well using the procedures described above. 

Finally, be sure to turn off the sideloading feature

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