I had high hopes when I started scouring the Android Market for cool mobile video apps. After all, Android is known for being one of the most (if not the most) cutting-edge mobile platforms available today. And I was not disappointed — here’s what I found:
This app, which is available in the Android Market as a free beta, is also available in both paid ($2.99) and free versions in the iPhone’s App Store. It lets you control the VLC Media Player software running on your Windows, Mac or Linux computer from your Android phone as if it were a remote control. (And, by the way, if you’re not using VLC for video playback on your computer, you should be. It’s one of the best media players around.) You just install the app on your phone and then download the setup utility, which allows the mobile software to talk to your computer’s desktop software. VLC Remote automatically finds VLC players on your home network for you and establishes the connection over your Wi-Fi network.
Qik seems to be turning into a staple in mobile video software. This free app, which I mentioned in my recent roundup of video apps in Nokia’s Ovi Store, is also available for the iPhone. Qik lets you stream live video from your Android-based phone to the web. I haven’t fully tested Qik’s Android version yet, but it was updated in August in order to iron out some of the bugs (such as inconsistent video performance) that were reported in the first iteration, an alpha released in June.
Gmote is another app that allows you to use your Android-based phone as a remote control for your Windows, Mac or Linux-based computer. (At this rate, I may never get off my couch again.) You install the free app on your phone, then install the Gmote software on your computer. Like VLC Remote, it connects to your computer over your Wi-Fi network, and can also be configured to connect via your cellular data network if Wi-Fi is unavailable.) From your phone, you can browse a list of all the music and video files on your computer, and launch them remotely. Gmote worked almost instantly in my tests; one tap on the screen of my Android phone, and by the time I looked at my Vista-based laptop, my videos were playing. A beta feature allows you to play the files on your phone, too, but this seemed rather buggy to me, as it frequently told me that my Android phone did not have a player capable of playing back most of my video files.
SPB TV has plenty of promise, but one big drawback: You have to pay to get any of the features worth using. This mobile TV application offers access to an interesting mix of more than 100 TV channels, including C-SPAN, ABC News Now and Weather Plus; and a mix of local news stations, such as KNBC 4 Los Angeles, Fox 12 Oregon, Access Sarasota 12 and others from across the country; plus international stations from 17 more countries. You get an easy-to-read program guide, and a simple — if small — video player. Unfortunately, the free (or “Lite”) version offers the channel list and program guide only; if you want to watch any content, you have to pony up $10 for the full-featured application. I understand the need to charge for content, but with such an eclectic mix of stations (not to mention a teeny-tiny viewing window), I’m not sure I’m willing to pay.
These are just a few of the video apps available in the Android Market, which is growing quickly. That means we can expect more cool video tools added, and soon.
This article also appeared on BusinessWeek.com.