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Mobile Video Players – Picking the Right One Isn't As Easy As It Looks

by Tom Volotta on February 24, 2012

Mobile Video PlayerOK — You just got that new smartphone or tablet you’ve been itching for, and aside from all the productivity apps and whatnot, you want an application that will play back all mobile video. No problem. That’s already built in. So what’s this about bothering with another mobile video player?

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE BUILT IN MOBILE VIDEO PLAYERS

Actually, nothing is ‘wrong’ with them, but just like special video players for computers, people want features that may not be included in the stock edition on their mobile phone. Some of the more commonly desired enrichments include:

  • Playback of video formats not natively supported
  • More elaborate interface providing extra information about the video
  • Additional swipe and gesture controls
  • Better media management of video playlists and libraries
  • Preferences for video and audio enhancement
  • Social network connection in real-time

The greatest demand is that people simply want to play videos from their personal libraries in formats on their mobile device that aren’t compatible with the native mobile player. That content could be run through a converter to create a compatible version,  then be transferred to the mobile device. However, installing a third party player on the mobile device to play the original video format is preferred by many, and it can also bring other valuable improvements.

The RealPlayer Android app does more than just play videos, you can also use it to play music and create slideshows from your photos on your phone. Better yet, it keeps all your media in one place on your phone.

MOBILE OPERATING SYSTEMS

Although in many ways they perform as tiny computers, these small mobile devices require different operating system software at their core. Special CPUs, limited power and memory constraints also come into play, making it essential to design mobile video players from the ground up. Video consumes a lot of power and puts huge stress on the CPU and graphics capabilities of the device, so both the content and the mobile video player itself must be optimized to work together.

The main operating systems currently in the market are the Apple iOS, Google Android, Nokia Symbian and the RIM BlackBerry OS. With Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia, Symbian is expected to be phased out and replaced with the Windows Phone OS around the world. Although each mobile OS has video playback capability, we’re focusing on Android and iOS, as they represent the fastest-growing and most innovative smartphone and tablet products being developed, and where you’ll have the most choices in selecting a mobile video player to your liking.

Even with all the different mobile operating systems, the MP4 video format using the H.264 codec seems to be a favorite. H.264 is very efficient and capable of generating high quality (up to 1080p/30fps) video content at bit rates that can be more easily tolerated by the smartphone or tablet.

MOBILE VIDEO PLAYERS

With the mobile market overall growing at an astounding rate worldwide, and because all mobile video content is a prime catalyst, it’s not surprising that developers of third-party mobile video players are rushing in to the space. A few of the top mobile video players (listed by OS) are:

Google Android

  • Act 1 Video Player, mVideoPlayer, MX Video Player, Plex, RealPlayer Android, VPlayer

Apple iOS

  • Azul Media Player, CineXPlayer, It’s Playing, VLC

These and many other mobile video players are available either from the Android Market or Apple App Store. You can search, review and download directly through your mobile device and starting using immediately. Depending on the product you select, you should be able to play nearly every video file format including; AVI, MPEG-2, MP4, WMV, DIVX, XVID, MOV, FLV and others. For users who watch a lot of video, an MP4 player is practically a requirement. Choosing an MP4 player is easy, even for a video novice.

As with video players for computers, these mobile apps are available for free, or a modest cost. There are also add-on codec packs for specific video formats from many of the developers.

FINDING THE RIGHT MOBILE VIDEO PLAYER

Here’s where you have to do some work of your own. Since none of these apps are expensive, you can experiment quite a bit, even with the so-called ‘Pro’ versions of these mobile video players without much of an investment. If your main objective is to play non-native formats, test that playback first. If you are getting what you want, then the user interface is the next feature to evaluate. Is it easy to navigate, are the controls accessible (remember, this is a touch-screen interface with a variety of swipe, pinch, tapping and other gestures), does it handle your video playlists the way you want, are there particular preference settings you need, etc.?

A good many of the special features and capabilities offered by all these third-party mobile video players are quite innovative, adding greatly to your enjoyment and use of video.

Let me your thoughts on what your favorite mobile video player by leaving a comment below.

{ 74 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sandra Benedetto February 28, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Great article, Tom. Learned a lot.

2 Tom Volotta February 29, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Well, Ms. Benedetto, thank you very much.

…TV

3 Susan February 28, 2012 at 8:15 pm

How do I get RealPlayer for Android?

4 Tom Volotta February 29, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Susan,

If you’re asking whether RealPlayer can play, share and transfer media files for use on Android devices, the answer is yes. Check out this link: http://www.real.com/realplayer/android

…TV

5 Anonymous April 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm

lets try…

6 Tom Volotta April 22, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Let’s try what? I’m not getting your meaning.

7 James April 24, 2012 at 8:29 am

So when will there be RealPlayer for Windows Phone?

8 Tom Volotta May 15, 2012 at 10:51 am

James,

I apologize for letting your question slip through the cracks.

First, I’m not even close to the loop on those kind of (or any other) product development decisions at RN.

Second, just looking at publicly available info, it looks like the Windows Phone has less than one-half of one percent of the mobile phone market. That’s not a lot for any developer to hang their hat on.

Third, I frankly am lost in regards to what OS Microsoft wants or will go with on their next product cycle. Windows Phone 7, Windows Mobile, some version of a Windows and Nokia Symbian system or what?

Here are some links that should help get you closer to an answer:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/greatspeculations/2012/05/15/windows-phone-needs-to-impress-developers-at-june-summit/

http://thenextweb.com/microsoft/2012/03/01/windows-phones-market-share-jumps-in-february/

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsphone/en-US/default.aspx

Looks to me like you’ll have to wait at least until this ‘June Summit’ event to get a reading on developer support. And as I said earlier, I’m far from being a source regarding RealNetworks’ plans.

Regards,

…TV

9 nigel May 15, 2012 at 11:13 am

woould be better if there was a link to the file, surely that was the whole point of the article?

10 Tom Volotta May 15, 2012 at 4:35 pm

A link to what file exactly?

The point was to provide some useful information about Mobile Video Players.

It was also intended to offer internal links to other blogs within this RealPlayer blog site, so readers might find interesting and/or related content. There also are links to external sources that could go into greater detail on a particular term, phrase or concept mentioned in the piece.

…TV

11 Wexlei Silveira June 14, 2012 at 7:31 am

I’m already using RealPlayer for Android, the best player, definitely. The only issue I found is that there is no way to make scrobble to last.fm.

Any chance to do this in a next version?

12 Tom Volotta June 14, 2012 at 11:40 am

Keep in mind that RealPlayer for Android is currently only Beta, pre-release software. I don’t have any information about when the full version 1.0 will be available. RP Android is getting very good reviews from users.

Since Scrobble has caught on with so many people, I’d guess the RealPlayer Android development team is well aware of it. There’s an email prompt on the ‘reviews’ link above to let the Android team know what features you’d like to see. I’m sure they would appreciate direct feedback from Beta users. You can also contact Support.

…TV

13 jen.x June 26, 2012 at 2:45 am

Whenever i try to download/resume a partial download i erroneously receive “SDcard full please delete files”
Well, ive deleted my way down to the skeleton.
(Over 500mb available)
Now i have a new sdcard..
No change..

And the (RP for android) settings are Limited,
Not offering “alloted mb size”
So im stumped, and sad

Bc I LOVE REALPLAYER EVERY

14 Tom Volotta June 26, 2012 at 9:33 am

I’m in the dark about this also. RealPlayer for Android is still a Beta version, so there’s bound to be issues. Contacting Support is the best way to sort this out.

…TV

15 Angel Nikki July 2, 2012 at 11:45 pm

superb realplayer app on android. whhy don’t have equalizer for adjusting and arrange the type of music like pop,dance,techno.house.hip hop. actually i use rocket player. pls have equalizer controller for us. thanks for kind regards, nikki

16 Tom Volotta July 3, 2012 at 12:00 am

Sounds like a good feature. The Android development team may have considered that already, but you should feel free to make your request known to them. Just contact Customer Support. I’m sure they’d like feedback on how to improve this product.

…TV

17 Kenny Kissel July 4, 2012 at 11:41 am

Hi When Will RealPlayer Mobile Play .wmv audio and video files. I can’t find any android player that does that.

18 Tom Volotta July 4, 2012 at 3:49 pm

According to RealPlayer Android help, this is dependent on the file formats the Android hardware device itself supports. If you’re saying other Android software media players you’ve tried don’t work either, it certainly sounds like the particular Android device you have doesn’t support WMV.

If the Android DOES support WMV, and you still can’t play it with RealPlayer Android, you should contact Support directly. A very superficial scan of a few of the 60-thousand+ reviews only showed a few file format conflicts. None with WMV that I saw. Again, there is an Android hardware element involved. RealPlayer Android software is also still in Beta, so the developers haven’t yet worked out everything to their satisfaction.

…TV

19 derah July 7, 2012 at 3:18 am

Hi.. Plz i want 2 no if there’s a media player dat plays internet videos with out havin 2 buffer. N all dat delays… Plz let me no… Fnx

20 Tom Volotta July 7, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Interuptions due to buffering are annoying interuptions to enjoying Internet video. The media player itself is likely not the problem. The Internet connection speed, number of users on your area system, along with the traffic load on the video provider’s servers have a major impact, and are largely out of your control.

However, there are things you CAN do to maximize the potential for a smooth viewing experience.

1. One of the simplest and most effective is to just pause the video, letting more load before playing.

2. Close all other applications and web pages unless they must be open. Unnecessary page connections eat up bandwidth that can be devoted to the video. More RAM can also be allocated to the media player.

3. Open the browser preferences and clear the cache, cookies and history. This wipes out ongoing processes that can bog down performance.

4. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, open the media player’s preferences, options or settings and then minimize the buffer size for streaming video.

5. Conversely, in the operating system preferences, set the virtual memory to a high value.

6. Some recommendations include turning graphics hardware acceleration OFF. Before settling on this, I’d experiment to see if it really does help.

You may not find it necessary to do ALL of the above. A combination of a few may provide smooth, buffer-free video playback.

Hopefully these suggestions are of help. Please let us know.

…TV

21 Juliann Temme July 19, 2012 at 10:49 pm

I appreciated the write-up.

22 Tom Volotta July 20, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Thanks. I appreciate the comment.

…TV

23 Pete Huckstep July 24, 2012 at 9:49 pm

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24 Tom Volotta July 25, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Good. It’s nice to hear the article was helpful.

…TV

25 irashiqah July 27, 2012 at 1:43 am

how can be done if i download realplayer video to my mobile phone and it says content not supported..hope can help me.

26 Tom Volotta July 27, 2012 at 10:47 am

It sounds like you haven’t converted the video you downloaded to a format compatible with your mobile phone. If so, select the downloaded video in the RealPlayer Library, then choose ‘Convert to’ from the menu. That will open RealPlayer Converter. Find the device that is the closest match to your mobile phone by manufacturer and model. Set additional details for the format video and audio specifications if you want. Drag the downloaded video from the Library into the Converter window. Start the conversion. The converted video will appear in the RealPlayer Library.

When converting to an Apple product, you’ll be prompted to send the converted video to the iTunes Library.

If you haven’t already, connect and sync the phone to the computer. Drag the converted video to the phone. For Apple, drag the video from the iTunes Library to the phone.

Let me know if this solves the problem or not.

…TV

27 Abdoul August 6, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Hi…how i can get video player and music player for HTC smart F3188 mobile please help me…thx

28 Tom Volotta August 7, 2012 at 11:08 am

The HTC F3188 is a couple of years old, and seems to be designed for non-US markets. In checking HTC Support for the US, the F3188 did not show up. The specs indicate the F3188 has a built-in audio/video media player, covering several formats, so I’m not sure exactly what problem you’re having. Maybe the player is broken in some way, and you need to re-install it. Contact your area’s HTC support for that. It may have something to do with “HTC Sync.”

I’ve also seen numerous references to downloading other media players to run on the F3188. No specific suggestions for you there, so you’ll need to do some searching on your own. It appears there are a number of free players out there though.

If the HTC F3188 ran on Android, I’d point you to RealPlayer Android for a test, but the F3188 uses a mobile OS called BREW, so that’s no help.

If the problem is just transferring files from your computer the the HTC, you could try using RealPlayer’s Converter to Transfer media from your computer to the F3188. Although there are nearly a dozen HTC models supported in the Converter, the F3188 is not listed. There is a general “HTC Device” selection though, that might work. But it looks like your first issue is getting a working media player.

Sorry I’m not of more help.

…TV

29 Bassel August 15, 2012 at 4:16 am

hi
will there be an ios version of realplayer??

30 Tom Volotta August 15, 2012 at 2:17 pm

No idea. I’m far from being in the loop for product development.

FWIW: There has been discussion of this on an Apple Support Communities forum.

…TV

31 Andy October 28, 2012 at 10:40 am

i guess there is not a video player for nokia 5230 smart phone then?? And where can i get videos to play on my phillips go gear vibe (mp4 player) ? Remembering that normal mp4 videos do not play on this device, phillips can not tell me of any third party software to use on my laptop to download these particular mp4 videos,

32 Tom Volotta October 28, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Why so negative? The Nokia 5230 is hanging its hat on Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 8 Operation System. Judging from the initial gossip about Windows 8 being a clunker, you can only hope for the best with the Nokia. It’s up to developers if they want to make players for it. I’m sure Microsoft is providing incentives just for that. Here’s a link to some video support info for the 5230: Nokia 5230 video player guide

As for Philips (one “l”), it’s completely on their head if they what to release a product that does not play “normal” MP4 videos. I hope they have a raft of engineers working away converting videos to their special format. I personally do not think it’s a good sign when the manufacturer can not point you to at least one (preferably several) third party developers creating software to use with a proprietary format like MP4 which has been altered in a way that nobody can use it.

There are many, many other choices. Any particular reasons you’re attracted to brands that appear to be not exactly what the public is clamoring for?

…TV

33 Almir December 9, 2012 at 4:45 am

Please real player symbian for nokia X6 16gb..ty

34 Tom Volotta December 10, 2012 at 5:16 pm

I’m not quite sure what you’re asking. The Nokia X6 isn’t on the list of devices RealPlayer can transfer media to, but the configurations for other models may work with the X6. If you’re asking whether there is a RealPlayer for the Nokia X6, I think the answer is ‘No.’ Android devices are supported. I’ll have to pass you off to RealPlayer Support for a more informed answer on this. Nokia has dropped the Symbian OS in favor of Windows Phone.

Sorry I can’t be more helpful.

…TV

35 chiko December 13, 2012 at 10:32 pm

very nice !

36 Tom Volotta December 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Thanks.

…TV

37 Rob January 1, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Loaded RealPlayer on my Galaxy Note but can’t figure out how to download videos from the net. On my desktop when I scroll over a video I get a pop-up with the option to save to Real Player but not with my tablet. Too bad they don’t include instructions. Thanks.

38 RealPlayer January 2, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Have you downloaded the RealPlayer app from the Play store? If so, that version doesn’t have the download videos button that appears on videos online when the app is installed.

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40 Tom Volotta January 19, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Well, since I’ve bailed you out of a truly drastic situation and saved your career, it appears you owe me a “life debt.” I will contemplate what that will constitute, but I can assure you it will involve an exorbanant amount of money. Cash only (unmarked bills, please.) No checks accepted.

Please do pass along the site info to anyone else in a similar dire situations, as I am looking forward to early retirement in Hawaii. ;-)

…TV

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42 Tom Volotta January 24, 2013 at 11:34 am

You’re welcome. Glad I was able to make things clear and informative for you.

…TV

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My pleasure. Thanks for the kind words about the efforts in the writing.

…TV

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..TV

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…TV

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…TV

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…TV

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Yeah, it is a good site. Plenty of interesting issues covered.

…TV

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57 Tom Volotta January 21, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Randee,

I guess that means you like the site. Thank you.

Tons of other stuff on here, so come back often. Tell your friends!

…TV

58 kasid January 21, 2013 at 11:44 pm

What about blackberry how do I download the player directly

59 Tom Volotta January 22, 2013 at 10:51 am

kasid,

Sure you can. Check your user manual. If you download to a computer with RealPlayer, you’ll also be able to transfer to certain Blackberry models.

…TV

60 Bayo January 22, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Thanks for the Wonderful article on Mobile video Players,real good work..
Please,how do I get a Mobile Video Player for My Techno N3 and has Play back capabilities?

61 Tom Volotta January 24, 2013 at 11:13 am

Bayo,

Try this, RealPlayer Android

…TV

62 Bayo January 22, 2013 at 10:58 pm

Please,How do I get a mobile Video Player for My Techno N3 that has Playback features?

63 Tom Volotta January 23, 2013 at 11:23 am

Bayo,

The Techno N3 is a Android phone. Use RealPlayer for Android to play your media.

…TV

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…TV

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Phone,

“Amazing author.” My, my — You truly have keen insights !!! ;-)

Glad you enjoyed the piece, and found it useful.

…TV

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69 Tom Volotta February 22, 2013 at 2:35 pm

led,

“kinda boring” — Well, that doesn’t brighten my day much at all! Is it the topics of the posts, or the style, flow, wording or whatever they are written in that isn’t making the grade for you? Not enough…? Too much…? Bad…? Let me know specifically, and I’ll see what I can do to step up my game.

It’s certainly more fun to get positive feedback, but also useful to know what’s not connecting with readers. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

…TV

70 Tom Volotta January 24, 2013 at 9:56 am

rain forest,

I’m only one of several writers contributing articles to the blog. There’s also a team behind the scenes keeping all the gears running smoothly.

…TV

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Funny you should ask — coincidentally, I just happened to do a search myself, and came up with over two BILLION hits dealing with this subject.

Enjoy.

…TV

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I’d put away little your sissy knives, and step up to a hand grenade instead. I’m very familiar with the old M61, and find it to be infinitely more effective than slashing away with blades at arms length. It’s much better to keep your distance.

…TV

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We use WordPress, which has both HTML and Visual (close, but not quite WYSIWYG.) I started with HTML, but switched to Visual on the advice of my editor. There are some intricacies with Visual, but it is a more natural method. Although you can load all the text, graphics and video yourself, there are several special functions (indenting, numbering and others) where you will either need to learn those tricks, or have someone with direct experience help you out. HTML is a science and art form of its own, and requires considerable discipline to become proficient.

Start with Visual, if you use WordPress.

…TV

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Hey, thanks for reading article and the compliment.

Your advice about motherboards is right on target — with one major exception. I seriously doubt the typical computer user even knows what a “motherboard” is in the first place, let alone attempting to repair one.

…TV

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