There’s no denying that most Android phones have very nice, sharp screens. A far cry from the original smart phones of only a few years ago, Android phones typically come with screens that would have been standard on handheld video devices only a few years ago. With most sporting Super AMOLED screens with anywhere in size from 3.5 to 4.7 inch screens, Android phones are perfect for watching video on the go. If you’re a movie buff, or want to catch up with your favorite TV shows, you have several options with an Android phone.
No review of video apps would be complete without the much loved YouTube application. Like the iPhone, most Android phones have the application pre-installed, although if your phone does not, it can be easily downloaded and installed by pointing your phone’s web browser to m.google.com/youtube. This application lets you browse and watch YouTube videos, but it also allows you to keep watching movies broken down into pieces by tracking related videos and bringing up the next video in a playlist automatically. You can upload your own videos taken on your phone directly from the application, and log into your account.
The biggest problem when choosing a media player for your mobile phone is that so many compressed formats for movies exist, and not all media players play them. Only recently has the popular VLC player released an application for iPhone which will play pretty much every format in which you will find a movie, though prior to that iPhone users had to rely on Videora Converter to convert video into MP4 format for their devices.
VLC is still developing an application for Android, but until such time as it is ready, most Android users are finding RockPlayer for Android to be the most versatile player for their phones. It will handle AVI, MKV, MP4, FLV, 3GP, MOV, ASF, DivX, Xvid, and H.264 formats easily, although it is recommended that your phone have a strong processor to handle video playback, lest the videos come out choppy or prone to skipping. This application can only access videos on your microSD card, although this is just as well, since you really don’t want to eat up your phone’s limited onboard memory with large movie files.
If you are a Netflix subscriber, you won’t have long to wait for the mobile application from Netflix that will allow you to watch Instant Play movies on your device. Already available for desktops, iPhone and the Wii gaming console, Netflix hopes to bring streaming movies to Android users by early 2011. This application should work the same way current applications for other platforms work, in that you will be able to watch movies within the application, pause and take up where you left off later, either on your phone or on another streaming device. Netflix is still in the process of adding more instant access titles to their database, with about 30% of the current movies available from Netflix on disc also available for instant play streaming. This number should rise in the coming months. Update 5/12/11: Netflix now available in the market for subscribers. You can get your Netflix account here.
If you like to watch videos on Hulu, you might already know that getting Hulu on your Android phone can be a challenge. Hulu itself hasn’t worked out the licensing rights to allow videos to play on mobile phone browsers, and iPhone users already have a subscription based Hulu application, which we can expect a version for Android any day now as well. However, several users with Android 2.2 (Froyo) have been able to watch Hulu from their phone browsers by tricking the Hulu website into thinking it is dealing with a desktop browser.
This is done by typing “about:debug” into the URL bar of your phone’s browser, select UAString (which allows you to change the user agent, or the identifying network protocol of your browser) and select “Desktop.” It is highly recommended that you watch over a Wi-Fi network, since streaming video in this way can decimate your data plan allotment for the month, and playback is much smoother. At the moment, Hulu has not blocked this feature, and as of the last 6 months, show no signs of doing so.
Finally, let us look at the ultimate way to watch TV or movies on your phone: Slingbox. Slingbox is a device which hooks up to your current telelvision/DVR setup at home, accesses your home Internet, and allows you to control and watch your television or recorded programs via your Tivo or DVR device over your phone. Slingbox has an Android application available for install on your phone, and you will be required to purchase a Slingbox and have the ability to run an Ethernet line between the SLingbox and your router. If your router is in another room, you will need to also purchase the SlingLink Turbo to send the signal from the Slingbox to the modem in another room. Once Slingbox is installed, you can watch your recorded or live TV shows anywhere in the world, as long as your phone and Slingbox are connected to the Internet.
As you can see, there are many varied options for turning your Android phone into a portable media center. Most Android phones have processors powerful enough to handle video playback and streaming for entire movies without much problem. If you do stream movies over the Internet, it is highly recommended that you do so connected to a wifi network, as video streaming requires massive amounts of data to download and depending on your phone plan, can end up eating away at your available data.
Furthermore, streaming over the phone network is choppy and difficult at best. With these suggestions at your disposal, start watching your favorite movies and shows right away with the press of a button on your Android phone!
So what do you think? Do you use any of these apps or something else? Please share in the comments.