VLC is the Swiss Army Knife of video playback. You can throw a lot of video and audio codecs at it, and VLC will just kind of yawn and play back your video quickly and fluidly. If that sounds like something useful for tablets, you’d be correct. Unfortunately, it’s been MIA on the iPad for two years… but now it’s back!
VLC was originally removed essentially… well, actually, we don’t know. We know it was yanked by Apple, and we know Apple isn’t a fan of the General Public License (or anything that lets their customers stream video Apple doesn’t sell to you, for that matter), which VLC is issued under. But that’s pretty much it. There was copious amounts of snottiness and general hostility about it, but few answers.
Similarly, it’s not entirely clear what changed over the last two years. In fact, nothing may have changed at all: The app is “bi-licensed” under Mozilla and GPL, and Apple might still decide to yank it.
Still, it shouldn’t. The new VLC has a few problems: Since it can’t use Apple’s frameworks, you can’t play back videos you shot on your iPhone. Seriously. Also, being as it’s an open source application, you should expect the user interface to be functional at best.
But there are some improvements: It’s integrated with Dropbox, for example, and has a WiFi file downloading function that’s pretty efficient. It also works quite well with iTunes and, of course, can take any of the abuse you throw at it in terms of files. You can even tweak functions such as gamma and saturation, if you feel like playing color corrector.
VLC may not be the absolute best video player on the App Store, but it’s easy to use and, most importantly? It’s free. It’s on the App Store now.
Dan Seitz is an obsessive nerd living in New England. He lives in the Boston area with a fiancee, a dog, a cat, and far too many objects with processors.