There is no perfect video player for iOS, as Apple’s restrictions prevent these apps from fulling utilising the hardware. That said, GoodPlayer manages to do quite a bit with the limitations it has, playing back and streaming just about anything you can throw at it.
- GoodPlayer can play just about any video or audio file that your iPhone’s processor can handle. Formats include AVI, Xvid, Divx, DAT, VOB, FLV, WMV, MKV, MP4, RM, RMVB and AC3. You can also stream files over HTTP, FTP, RTSP, MMS, MMSH, MMST, RTP and UDP.
- Transfer files through iTunes, through a web interface, or via FTP.
- Download and stream files directly from the app.
- Supports the dual-core A5 processor for faster video decoding.
- Swipe up and down on video to quickly enable and disable subtitles.
- Supports video out, so you can hook up your iPhone for playback on a TV.
- Open video files from other apps in GoodPlayer.
- Allows resuming from the last played position of a file (so long as you remember to tap “Done”).
- Organise your media files in folders.
- Password-protect your folders.
- Supports 720p MKV files on the iPad 2. The iPad 1/iPhone 4 can only handle 720p AVI and MPEG-4 files.
- DTS/AC-3 5.1 audio is supported, but mixed to stereo.
- Universal app, so you don’t have to buy it for both your iPhone and iPad.
GoodPlayer supports practically everything you’d want to play, so long as your iPhone’s processor can handle the job. Even if it can’t, GoodPlayer manages to still give you the audio without skipping a beat. While your iPhone 4 won’t be able to decode a 720p MKV, supposedly your iPad 2 will (which bodes well for the next version of the iPhone which, in theory, will have an A5 processor like the iPad). Subtitle support is excellent, as it’s easy to enable and disable plus GoodPlayer supports pretty much every type of subtitle encoding you’ll encounter. You can output to the TV and transfer files to the app pretty much every way you could think of (aside from pulling files from Dropbox, though you could technically send them to GoodPlayer via the Dropbox app if you wanted to). While GoodPlayer isn’t perfect, it manages to do a lot with the little Apple allows. Of all the video players on iOS, it is definitely one of the most ambitious.
The obvious primary drawback surfaces is GoodPlayer’s inability to decode video fast enough. Your iPhone 4 won’t be able to keep up with a 720p MKV (though, supposedly, an iPad 2 can). You probably don’t need 720p video on your iPhone, but it is handy if you’re outputting to a TV or if you just don’t want to download/create two versions of the same file. But none of this is GoodPlayer’s fault.
There are still issues GoodPlayer could fix or improve upon. While the interface is very utilitarian, it’s not particularly nice to look at. While I haven’t noticed any instability issues, some users have complained about frequent bugs. The web upload interface, while useful, is about as basic and minimal as it gets. A transfer progress meter would be helpful, considering video files are almost always pretty large. AirPlay support would be really nice as well, but chances are that won’t work because of the supported formats. If GoodPlayer could overcome the impossible and utilise the hardware video acceleration the A4 and A5 chips can provide, plus improve on its interface, it would be a killer app.
Pretty much all of the direct competition offers the same feature set as GoodPlayer but has a few drawbacks here and there. One competitor worth mentioning is CineXPlayer, since it can play 3D movies. Of course, this will cost you $1.99 on top of the $2.99 price, but if you somehow need to watch 3D movies you have that option.
The built-in video player on your iPhone is worth mentioning because it really is a great player – at least for the formats it supports. You do have to sync with iTunes to get files in it, unless you buy all your video directly from the iTunes Store, but it’s a good way to handle podcasts or anything else you don’t mind putting in iTunes. Sure, it’s far from perfect, but it does what it does pretty well.
While StreamToMe and AirVideo are technically not video players, but rather video converters and streamers, it’s hard to ignore them when they are one of the best solutions for video playback on your iPhone. If you have a server available to stream files, either of these apps are really handy. You may want to supplement them with a local video player (you know, like GoodPlayer), but they do an excellent job for all those files you can’t play back smoothly.
Of course there are tons of other video player apps for iPhone that aren’t mentioned here, as many of them are pretty much the same thing. If you have a favourite that was left in the dust, however, let’s hear about it 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.