VLC is known as a Swiss Army Knife of media players for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It can handle almost any video codec you care to throw its way. So the news that Applidium was porting the open source media player to work with the iPad last month was met with a bit of excitement. Unfortunately, it turns out that Apple’s mobile hardware simply isn’t up to handling all of the media formats that the desktop version of VLC can play. MKV files can cause problems, and HD video playback is pretty much out of the question unless you like photo slideshows.
Still, VLC is effectively one of the best options available for anyone looking for a way to watch DiVX, Xvid, or WMV files on the iPad, as well as some other formats. And now the app supports the iPhone and iPod touch as well.
VLC 1.1 for iOS now supports the iPad, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and 3rd and fourth generation iPod models. Applidium says it also decodes videos faster and supports opening attachments from other applications as well as RTSP and MMS streams.
I tested VLC on my 4th generation iPod touch and had absolutely no problem playing three different files encoded as WMV, DiVX, and Xvid. Unlike some other media players I’ve tried, VLC can handle each of those formats while playing both audio and video.
There aren’t a ton of options in the video player. Basically, it plays videos using the default iOS video interface. There’s a scrubber bar for moving back or forward, as well as a volume bar, play/pause button, and skip ahead/back buttons. That’s it. There’s no option to adjust video dimensions or zoom levels.
While VLC can’t really handle HD video playback, it does at least give you a warning. I tried to play a 720p video and got a message letting me know that the app probably couldn’t handle it. Sure enough, when I hit the play button, the video froze while the audio hummed along nicely.
VLC does remember the last position of each video, so you can stop watching a video and flip to another movie… then go back to a previous video and pick up watching exactly where you left off.
VLC for iOS is available as a free download from the iTunes App Store.
Update: It came and went…