There’s an app (or several) for everything, including core functions, to suit just about anybody’s needs and preferences. That applies to video playback apps in the Android universe too, and there are a ton of them to tackle your TV shows, movies and viral clips. But which one is right for you?
Today we’re taking a look at eight great free video players as well as one of the most hotly-anticipated apps coming to the Play Store. Android’s stock Gallery does a decent job of playing videos but can’t recognize certain formats and doesn’t allow you to set up playlists. Most of the apps in this group are similar, so it’s as much a battle as a roundup of the various options available to fit your needs best.
I tested these apps using a HTC Desire S running Android 2.3.5 with a variety of files and formats (MPG, AVI, MP4 and FLV), including a few with subtitles. Bear in mind that these apps mostly support the SRT format for subtitles and usually need them to be named exactly the same as the video file and placed in the same folder.
This is my pick of the bunch: MoboPlayer leads the pack with high-quality playback, a great interface, simple controls, an easy-to-use playlist and perhaps the best multi-format support out there. Subtitles also work fine and can be easily customized. There are a couple of interesting touches: MoboPlayer can play the last-accessed file from where you left off, and allows you to use your hardware volume buttons to control audio level or video position.
The UI also reflects how well-built and full-featured the app is – you can go through your files in list, grid and cover flow views, search and sort by file size, duration and resolution. MoboPlayer also supports streaming directly from URLs if you’re into that kind of thing. All in all, it’s the best player out there in terms of performance and has a great mix of features.
MX Player is great for the power user — it offers a ton of options including deinterlacing, audio track selection, information display and locked screen options. The app features a simple clean UI that allows you access preferences on the fly without crowding the screen. Subtitles can be loaded using a menu from the Now Playing options screen.
Want more? There are settings for screen orientation, brightness control, touch response actions, navigation and subtitle display options, and even a Cover Flow-style file view. Plus, it performs very well across formats by automatically selecting the appropriate decoder to deliver a lag-free experience. Easily one of my favorites, MX Player is an example of high-quality app development.
Here’s a basic option for those who aren’t too picky about their apps. Movie Player Vista can play local video files as well as YouTube videos with an optional plugin – nice but slightly redundant since the default YouTube app is great. The UI follows ICS design guidelines, but also shows some unskinned elements which i’m not a fan of.
Performance was passable – I did notice a bit of stuttering once in a while, which I didn’t see with some other apps. Subtitles are supported but can’t be customized. There’s a feature called My Movies which seems to offer a social side to consuming videos, but I couldn’t get it to work – hopefully the next update will address that. It also lacks a screen lock, which is a must-have feature for when you’re on the move.
Yes, it’s by the same developers who made the very competent PC media player app. BSPlayer Lite, the free Android version holds up its legacy quite well, with quality performance on various formats, subtitle display and plenty of features for power users, including support for multiple audio streams, detailed file info display and aspect ratio toggling.
The file browser looks fairly plain but the player interface is skinned like a desktop player and allows you to apply additional skins too. There are versions of this app for ARM v5/v6/v7 CPU devices as well. If you like your apps pretty and with powerful, give BSPlayer a try.
This is a plain-and-simple video player that does its job very well. Sporting a minimal interface, Vplayer offers several options to customize your playback experience, including deinterlacing and hard/soft decoding, and a screen lock. It can also play in the background, display all kinds of info about your video files and performs well across formats. Worth a shot.
QQPlayer features a beautiful ICS-inspired interface that’s simple to use. Performance-wise it’s fine but I noticed that it had trouble with MP4 files, and occasionally returned to the file browser upon trying to seek in a video. It displays subtitles just fine, though, and makes it easy to lock the screen and take screenshots.
Apart from supporting a wide variety of formats, it also supports SMI subtitles and MKV embedded subtitles, as well as multiple audio track switching. QQPlayer is worth following if you’re looking for a well-designed player, and I recommend checking it out.
This will suit tablet users who have a lot of screen real-estate – apart from playing videos full-screen as most players do, it can also float on top of your home screen or any other running app and continue to play. This functionality works really well, as the app isn’t affected by hardware buttons and doesn’t lag when other apps are in use.
Super Video plays most formats out of the box but requires the free Vitamio plugin to support certain formats like FLV. Subtitles work fine. It’s great that you can always get back to fullscreen and even toggle aspect ratio from the floating player. The interface is unfortunately very dated, and looks out of place on today’s smartphones. If you’re using a tablet though, the unique floating functionality is worth overlooking the UI for.
Not to be confused with the previous app, this one claims to be a plugin for Dolphin Browser HD but I couldn’t seem to get it to work that way. Super Video Player functions as a standalone player app but doesn’t perform very well – it takes a long time to recognize and catalog your video files, fares poorly on MP4 files and most HD files and looks plain.
There’s a YouTube search and playback function baked in but I don’t see it as especially useful or as an improvement over the stock YouTube app. Skip this unless you’re a Dolphin fanboy (really?).
BONUS – VLC Beta (NEON version)
Since this has been in the news of late, I thought it might be worth checking out. As the name suggests, this is very much still in beta and therefore had some performance issues such as stutters and lags on ordinary files.Subtitles work fine, but the options for their display, and other features need to be fleshed out before it launches. While the UI is decent, it isn’t mindblowing and could do with some work to spice things up. I’d recommend that you wait for the final release before you grab this one.
So there you have it – eight video players for your on-the-go viewing pleasure. While they’re all mostly similar to each other, MoboPlayer and MX Player are the ones that impressed me the most with their performance and feature sets – the former being so good that I wouldn’t mind paying for it, since I don’t have to ever worry about converting a video before transferring it to my device.
I hope you found this roundup useful. Take a look at the gallery below for screenshots of each app. Once you’ve picked your favorite, rustle up some popcorn and settle down to that movie you’ve been meaning to watch for ages. Happy watching!