Android has more than a few good video players on the Market, but the best we found — in terms of interface, browsing, and playback quality — was undoubtedly MoboPlayer.
- Plays most popular video formats, including those not natively supported by your phone (via software decoding)
- Supports subtitle formats such as SRT, arse, and SAA, as well as built-in subtitles for formats like MKV, MPV, and MOV
- Media library that supports including and excluding folders from the library
- Media library has two thumbnail views: list and grid
- Gesture-based player that allows for changes in brightness, playback position, and volume without ever bringing up the player controls
- Set volume keys to either control volume or playback position
- Create playlists and play through multiple files of the same type continuously
- Stream videos through HTTP or RTSP protocols
First and foremost, MoboPlayer's biggest strength is in the quality of playback. This is the most important thing in a video player, and MoboPlayer does the best job of any player we've seen. Videos are fast, smooth, and don't pixelate or stutter (hardware permitting, of course). While it won't play HD videos super smoothly, we couldn't find a video player that did - and it did a better job than most. It also plays the majority of formats due to its software decoding features. If your phone has trouble playing videos, you can grab optimised codec packs for MoboPlayer on the Market, which is a nice touch.
That said, the rest of MoboPlayer is pretty much a joy to use. We didn't have to decide between playback quality and interface because MoboPlayer is the best in both camps - its media library is easy to browse, lets you include only specific folders, and has two different viewing modes. The gestures for controlling brightness, volume, and playback position are also really great to have on hand (especially the brightness one, which you'd usually have to exit the player to change). Its subtitle support is also good if that's something you need.
There are two things I missed from MoboPlayer. First, it didn't recognise every video format I threw at it. Certain obscure formats like OGM didn't seem to pop up, but it played pretty much everything else in my library. Also, while its library view is great, I'd love to see more support for sorting things into different categories by title, for example if you have TV shows on the device. That said, it's still the best player on the Market with or without these features - they're just things that would make it even better.
In my experience, no player can measure up to MoboPlayer, but there are a few other OK players on the Market. Vplayer is an up-and-coming video player that's young, but shows lots of promise. It played everything I threw at it, but it required a lot of fiddling with the settings to get them to play well, which isn't ideal. It also doesn't have a "library" feature (you just browse your filesystem for videos), but it's definitely worth a look if you have something MoboPlayer won't import. It also has some great streaming features if that's your thing. mVideoPlayer is a very popular choice, and the app is great. Its big downside, however, is that it only supports formats that your phone natively supports. That said, if you're going to be playing videos on your phone, I recommend converting them anyway - especially if the originals are in HD - so it doesn't really matter. If you're converting them to a lower resolution anyway, you might as well convert them to a native format and play them with a great player.
Lastly, RockPlayer is a very powerful app that can play tons of different formats, but it comes at a price - a 13MB install. If you have a newer, more powerful phone, it's definitely one to check out since it plays almost everything under the sun.
Those certainly aren't the only ones, but they're the ones worth checking out if MoboPlayer isn't right for you. If you've got a favourite we didn't list, be sure to let us know in the comments.
Lifehacker's App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories. This week, we're focusing on video players.