May 21, 2012
VLC, the open-source cross-platform media player, is finally making its way to Android. While an official release is still in the distance, with the official VideoLAN website stating that VLC for Android is “in development,” impatient users who want to walk on the wild side can download an unofficial (as in, not released by VideoLAN themselves, although with code released under the GPL, anyone can compile the app) hourly build for Android. It comes in two flavors: a version that supports NEON-enabled processors, and a non-NEON version.
Really, the fact that VLC hasn’t been developed for Android before now is kind of baffling. VLC has been ported to iOS before, but DRM issues with distributing on the App Store shut it down. While an App Store-esque way of distributing apps exists on Android, it’s also easy to distribute a DRM-free app over the internet that would work on Android (itself an open-source OS). That daily releases are only now available seems odd, unless the technical hurdles have been that much greater.
Now, these are daily releases, so they have some instability and general bugginess , but the player works well enough for video playback of standard definition video on my Samsung Captivate, though that had no problem working through the built-in video app. My question was rather simple: would this work for high-definition video playback from a downloaded internet video? On a Tegra 2 device, it ran into issues, though performance was improved when hardware decoding was enabled. As well, some audio synchronization issues appeared.
While this isn’t as useful as the desktop version quite yet, and has performance issues to work out (compared to something like MX Player), the fact is that this app does exist, and given the desktop’s capabilities, this app could be something truly great. Just not today. However, this hourly version is a great start down the road to video playback freedom on Android.