By Werner Ruotsalainen on Sun, 11/18/2012
The scene of third-party multimedia players have been pretty stormy lately, which can clearly be seen if you look around in iOS forums with more advanced users. Dolby's forcing all developers to license their (widely used and essential) audio codecs at pretty huge licensing fees has resulted in a lot of players removing Dolby audio support altogether, (pretty understandably – we're speaking of quite a lot of money not possible to pay if you sell, say, under 20-30 000 copies of a, say, $2 app) not being able to pay the money Dolby have demanded.
The rest of the apps (ones which haven't dropped Dolby support) have been removed from the AppStore by Apple. This is why for example Replayer / ReplayerHD, LuberPlayer / LuberPlayerHD and QQPlayer / QQPlayerHD are (still) missing from the AppStore. (So is, by the way, one of the best players, AVPlayer(HD). It's still not known when it will be back.) Unfortunately, of the just-listed players, the free(!) QQPlayer and QQPlayerHD have always been probably the most recommended free titles by me – it's sad to see they're gone. Hope they will be back.
In the article below, I elaborate on the new, just-released version of four major players.
1. flex:player 2.2.0
flex:player, a player which I more or less recommended (article) was also in the league of non-accessible players for some days.
The new version's description doesn't at all mention anything negative of the updates (unlike most other players, which do tell their users not to update to keep the existing codec support):
(click the image for the original!)
Start the new version, tap any non-MOV / non-MP4 video, and this is what you see:
Tap the More Info button to be presented by the following:
That is, you'll end up having to pay for everything(!!!), even DTS, WMV etc. codecs and the price is pretty high. $8 is twice as much as the price of It's Playing or BUZZ Player. While the latter two apps don't support Dolby audio any more, neither does flex:player (yes, the $8 IAP doesn't even include Dolby support...) and these two players, generally, deliver superior performance and a lot(!) more features.
All in all, should you enjoy the previous version and the lack of 16:9 (iPhone 5 / iPod touch 5 screen) support isn't a problem, in no way should you upgrade – you'll lose a LOT of functionality.
2. yaPlayer 3.3
The, particularly for software-only H.264 and MPEG-2 playback, highly recommended (see THIS) yaPlayer has also been inaccessible in the AppStore for some days. You can check out the update list in the first screenshot. As you can see, it does (as it should to avoid users' sometimes completely losing the ability to play back their content by sticking with the old version and not updating) emphasize Dolby audio support has been dropped.
The new version promises a lot of goodies:
- support for Closed Captions (CC's). Unfortunately, these aren't CC's in the ATSC broadcast recordings – the player just displayed “Fail to load video” when trying to play back my standardized ATSC test file (with AC-3 audio and CC subtitle tracks). I don't know whether this has to do with the video having an AC-3 track (which isn't supported any more) or of the newly-added CC support. The same video was perfectly played back by the previous version 3.2, which still supported AC-3 but haven't had CC support (again, if we're speaking of true CC support and not some more traditional subtitle format like VobSubs embedded in MP4 files and the like).
I bet they aren't those of Apple's MP4's either – I couldn't this as I only have copy protected movies I've purchased from AppStore and the only non-copy protected media there, music videos, don't have CC's.
- quick, gesture-based, rewinding / fast forwarding. I really missed (see THIS) that from the previous versions. In the app, you can even set its duration (from the default 5s) – see the next screenshot:
Unfortunately, you can't define separate rewind/ fast forward step time. (For efficient ad skipping, generally, longer fast forward steps are preferable. For example, in “It's Playing”, it's 30 seconds as opposed to the 10s rewinding time).
- Camera Roll access (also, the topmost menu item in the previous screenshot). This is welcome news. Fortunately, as opposed to the majority of the few other players that do support accessing the Camera Roll, it doesn't need importing and/or recompressing the file.
2.1 All in all,
if losing AC-3 support isn't an issue (which, in general, only results in videos being silent; TS ATSC videos, however, become completely unplayable) the new features are pretty much worth updating. (Nevertheless, keep that old, 3.2 IPA file – noone knows when you end up having to use it!)
3. MoliPlayer 1.7.6 (iPhone) / 1.8.5 (iPad)
I heartily recommended this free, but still excellent player in my July review. Not a single version has been released in the meantime – except for the just-released one.
The most important (and outstanding!) feature of the new version that it hasn't dropped AC-3 support. (M)TS files (e.g., Streetdrummer or ATSC recordings) can be played back just fine. However, should you want to play back MP4 files with AC3 audio only (e.g., my standardized benchmark one), the player remains silent. These kinds (MP4 / MOV / M4V container with an AC3 audio track only) of files can only be played back with audio if you disable hardware acceleration.
The widescreen support is flawless.
The major descynhronization problems with MKV files have been fixed. However, the new version can't play back Monsters properly: now, the audio and video is in synch but there are tons of audio drops, making playback useless – even on the iPhone 5, which has a blazingly fast CPU.
Go get the new version and DO BACKUP IT IMMEDIATELY!! It's a decent player, except for some formats (e.g., MKV) and is free – what else can you expect? I'm dead sure Dolby will force these developers to remove AC-3 support so the current (1.7.6 / 1.8.5) version won't remain for long in the AppStore, I'm sure.
4. It's Playing
Last but not least the player, in general, I recommend the most: It's Playing. Its 3.8 version has also lost AC-3 support as was easy to predict:
However, it gained
- hardware acceleration for networking playback (will post a full article on all these questions)
- full Seagate Satellite GoFlex support (up to now, AFAIK, only BUZZ Player was able to access it)
- an AC3-to-AAC desktop converter app so that, by pre-processing your videos, you can still be able to play their audio track. I'll thoroughly test the converter and compare it to my favorite ones also working in batch mode (Subler and the latest betas of MP4Tools / MKVTools - see THIS).