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VLC for iOS does rather a lot that Apple would probably rather it didn’t. This includes opening media files directly from Safari, reading all sorts of weird and wonderful file formats and loading up on media without the need to pair your phone with an iTunes library.
Best of all, VLC is available in the App Store, which means the app finally has Apple’s blessing after a rocky start. Just in case you don’t already have it installed, here’s what you’ve been missing out on.
VLC for iOS has a few standout features that users coming from Android and other, less strictly-controlled environments take for granted. On the whole I’m happy with my daily iOS experience, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t glad for an app like VLC to level the playing field when it comes to what I can do with my own media.
VLC for iOS plays every file format that its bigger, fatter, desktop cousin can. This includes formats typically not recognised by iTunes, including .MKV containers and .FLV files and audio files like .OGG and .FLAC too. For the full list, check out the official list of supported file formats.
Transferring media to VLC is a painless affair, even if the computer you’re using isn’t paired with your device. You could use iTunes File Sharing, but this requires pairing with a Mac or Windows PC running iTunes. VLC can get around the requirement for iTunes using a variety of methods, my favourite of which is Wi-Fi file transfer.
Under VLC’s menu is an option for Wi-Fi Upload, which (when tapped) will return a URL that looks something like http://192.168.0.x. Provided your computer is on the same network as your iOS device, you will be able to upload files by visiting the URL in a web browser and dragging and dropping media. And yes, this works on any network – so if you’re round a friend’s house without a paired iTunes library nearby, it will work. Naturally, the media won’t show up in your core iOS media library afterwards, but what did you expect.
While that’s the quickest method of transferring files, it’s by no means the only option. VLC for iOS supports local FTP transfer, HTTP and FTP download by pasting in a direct URL and cloud storage services Dropbox and Google Drive. You can also locate a media file on the web using Safari, then choose the Open in… option to open previously-unsupported media files in iOS with VLC (you’ll need to wait for them to “download” first though, which involves watching a webpage load for a while with no indication of progress).
The desktop version of VLC is an excellent little streaming player, able to open a huge number of streams using a variety of protocols. Thankfully the iOS version is no different, with VLC for iOS even including support for uPnP (DLNA) media servers. This requires no prior set-up, simply connect to the same network, open VLC and access your streams.
Theres barely an internet radio stream, live webcam feed or remotely located file that VLC cannot open, with full support for web-based HTTP, FTP, RTSP, RTMP and MMS. There’s no support for any of those protocols included with iOS out of the box, just iTunes Radio, Match and Home Sharing.
The good news doesn’t stop there, because VLC implements a few nifty features even when it comes to playback – the first of which are gestures. While watching or listening to media, a two-finger tap will pause playback and a pinch will stop it. You can also slide left and right anywhere on screen to finely adjust playback position. Lastly, brightness and volume can be adjusted by scrolling up and down on the left and right sides of the screen respectively.
Much like the desktop application, VLC for iOS also allows you to make changes to the picture by modifying contrast, brightness and other settings. There’s also the option of adjusting the playback speed from 0.25x to 4x its original value, and playback continues in the background if you hit the home button. VLC will even resume where you left off when reopening a file and there is excellent support for subtitles, with options for font, size and text colour under Settings.
VLC is the best way to consume media on your iPhone or iPad. It provides the fastest method of transferring media, even if the computer is not paired or running iTunes. The organisational side of VLC for iOS could be better, but the core functionality is already there: you can play essentially any media file on your iOS device with this one, free app.
Download: VLC for iOS (Free)