Android Video Player Roundup

October 16, 2010
If you're like me, you want the latest and greatest apps on your phone, and you want them for free.

Linux has spoiled me to expect top quality, nag-free, ad-free software.  In that regard, Android is a bit of a letdown (as are all the mobile phone platforms, to be fair).  In developing a marketplace of apps that is rapidly gaining on the iPhone App Store, many great commercial apps have arrived, along with many free second-tier ones.  I've had to find best balance.  Here's the result of my search for a good "plays everything" media app:

2013 Update:

MoboPlayer

For the last year this has been my pick as best-in-show.It runs equally well on my phone and my tablet.

Driven by the open source FFmpeg decoder, it plays nearly anything and does it very well.  It initially tries to use hardware decoding for speed, but provides a fallback mode to software decoding in case that attempt fails.  It has intuitive on-screen controls: I love the draggable volume control on the right edge. It's absolutely free: not time-limited or feature-limited. My phone is rooted, so I can't say if this app has advertisements.  It should definitely be the first app you try.

Previous picks:

These are from others years, and are included below for reference only.  No guarantee is made for their current usability.

Rockplayer

This was the first aftermarket player I tried for Android, and was long my favourite.  It harnesses also the open source FFmpeg decoder collection to render video and audio, and in theory has the same versatility as great cross-platform media players like VLC.  In fact, I chose this option because many regard it as the closest thing to VLC available on the Android.  That said, it's not intended to be free.

A nagware Universal version (compatible with all processors) exists in the Android market, and this is the version I use.  Other users I've talked to have reported advertisements in this app at the bottom of the player screen, and the nag screen itself reports the presence of ads, but I've yet to see one.  It does display a bright cursive letter R the size of my pinky nail in the upper left hand corner of my videos.  A bit bothersome, but tolerable.

A number of other versions of this app are available directly from the dev's website; these are optimized for particular processors and are unusable without an activation process tied to your phone IMEI number.  The cost is $9.99 USD.

arcMedia

Another FFmpeg-based player, in beta development but already in very fine shape.   Its rendering is slightly inferior to RockPlayer, with text and graphics slowing slight pixellation.  Audio is also likely to experience an occasional crackle, but not significantly more often than RockPlayer.  If you'd rather not pay for a media player, or are bothered by the nag screens, in-app advertisements or logo watermarking of RockPlayer, this might be the better choice for you.  It's free from the Android Market and has a 4 star rating based on 2932 reviews.

VPlayer

Versatile Player (VPlayer) is a new option, currently in alpha development.  If you can't find it in the Android Market. get it directly from the developer's website.  Like the other options, it uses FFmpeg to render a wide range of video formats but according to a current blog entry by the dev, it has only been tested with avi, mkv, rmvb, mp4, wmv, ogv, and (ostensibly) flv.  360P video can be rendered at a high bit-rate with smooth playback, but 480P video is low bit rate and reduced quality.  I haven't installed this one yet, but if you're feeling adventurous, why not?  The author reports that the app can crash, but there's no indication of any deliberate crippling, ads, or nagware screens.
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