Why store media on your iPhone when you can stream it? Whether it's coming from the cloud, your computer, or a third-party service, these are our picks for the best media streaming apps for your iPhone.
If you want to watch your video, regardless of the format, Air Video is one of the best apps you can get for your iPhone (or other iOS device). Using your Mac or Windows computer as a host, you can serve up video in virtually any format to your iPhone. If the video isn't already in the format your iPhone likes, Air Video will convert it on the fly. While there are a few apps in the app store that serve this purpose, Air Video has repeatedly come out on top for video streaming. While it may lack some of the features of others, it's incredibly easy to set up and works more reliably than anything else we've tested. While we definitely feel it's worth paying the small fee of $US3 for the full version, Air Video's free offering will allow you all the functionality of the pay version while listing only a portion of the files on your server.
If you use Plex as your home media centre, the iOS app is a must-have. While it doesn't have the simple network setup you get with Air Video, it offers much of the same functionality and doubles as a remote control for your Plex media centre. While not an app for everyone, for Plex devotees it's a great addition. If you want more information, check out our hands-on look at Plex for iOS.
Plex | iTunes App Store
It would be a shame to ignore the great built-in YouTube app that comes with your iPhone when Apple did such a nice job with it. While it's pretty straightforward, it's always there for you when you want to bring up your favourite web videos (such as Santa Claus on a Helicopter — one I'm currently obsessed with). If you're logged in you can save videos, rate them, and manage playlists. Beyond just being a video player, it makes a great free music player as well. Since YouTube has so much free music, you can just add a bunch of songs/music videos to a playlist and listen to virtually anything you'd like.
As if you don't hear enough about Dropbox from us, here it is in the list of best media streaming apps. While this may seem a little strange, it's actually a really great way to access your media — the media you keep in your Dropbox, anyway. Not only can you stream any iOS-compatible audio or video that's in your Dropbox, but you can save it by starring it in the app. This is especially nice if you're syncing your iTunes media with Dropbox because you can access anything in your library even if you're 1) not syncing it with your phone, or 2) haven't yet set aside a good 45 minutes to wait for iTunes to complete the synchronisation process. While it might not be a media streaming app by name, it certainly does the job pretty well. Also, it's free (just like your basic Dropbox account).
Dropbox | iTunes App Store
If you'd prefer to listen to your own music collection than whatever Pandora happens to be offering up, Audiogalaxy may be more up your alley. If that name's familiar, you're probably remembering Audiogalaxy from its days as a great little peer-to-peer music download service that was shuttered in the post-Napster wars. Now Audiogalaxy's been reborn as a smart little app that runs as a background server on your desktop that streams music to the companion app on your iOS (or Android) device. Not a shabby transformation.
iOS is filled with media streaming options so we can't include them all. Here are a few that didn't make the short list but are still worth noting.
- StreamToMe - While not quite as seamless as Air Video, StreamToMe offers a bunch of additional features. Among other things, you can stream audio content in addition to your video. If you're looking for a more fully featured streaming option, StreamToMe may be a good choice for you.
- VLC Streamer / Free - VLC Streamer is another media streaming option that's pretty much the same as Air Video, even when it comes to simple setup. In fact, VLC Streamer might actually be easier to setup since it offers to email you instructions the first time you use it. VLC Streamer's primary advantage, however, is that it costs $1.19 and the free version has no limitations — just ads.
Are there any great media streaming apps for iOS that you think should've made the list? Let us know in the comments.