Back again with more iPad goodness! This time we’re talking media apps – watching video, listening to music, you get the idea. Whether it’s over lunch, sitting in the airport or hotel, catching up on Fringe in coach or just relaxing on the patio, the ability to pop open an app and start watching a show or listening to an artist is really cool. So, here are the apps that make that experience worthwhile on the iPad.
Pandora was one of the first apps I downloaded, and continues to rank high with me for it’s usefulness and simplicity. If you’ve never used the web service before, here’s what it does in a nutshell. You subscribe to the free service and, using either their website or a number of hardware products that it integrates with, stream music from the artists and genre you selected (i.e., your Stations). The paid subscription eliminates adds, delivers higher quality audio, and allows you to skip more tracks. The only downside is that, until Apple updates the iOS for the iPad, it won’t play in the background while doing other things.
In my opinion, it’s still too difficult to stream video between devices. I mean, it should be as easy as installing a bit of software and then pointing your device to you trove of Alias episodes or whatever, right? Well Air Video got it right. For $2.99 you get an app that, when combined with a free Air Video Server app you install on the PCs or Macs with content, allows you to stream video to your iPad. No messing with firewall configurations or remembering file shares, just bang! it’s working. It works with most file formats and gives you the choice of streaming directly, convert on-the-fly (for WMV files) or you can queue files for conversion. Not only that, it works with
some most Comcast internet out-of-the-box, so you can watch videos from your home computers on the road with ease. Highly recommended.
Another video player I keep is CineXPlayer. Why both, you ask? Normally, you have to make videos part of your iTunes library in order to sync them with your iPad. This is really unnecessary, in my view, and can be a hassle. With CinXPlayer, you point it to the video files on your device and it uploads them for viewing. That’s it. And, it works with a variety of AVI files, which is something that can’t be said for the native iPad video player.
This was an easy choice. Netflix is a little slow on the uptake, but once you start watching content you know that this is the experience you’ve been waiting for. If you have a really good connection, the quality is incredible, and will make you the envy of everyone sitting around you in church. Just kidding, honest.
ABC was also out the gate with the app at launch, and one-upped both Netflix and Hulu with their user interface and slickness. And kudus for making a boatload of their shows available, without restrictions. Runs fast, looks great. Now, if only Fox would get off their high horse and do the same….
And the prize for Ms. Congeniality goes to….Hulu Plus for iPad!
Ok, I was the biggest fan of Hulu when they first arrived, and thought for sure they would give Netflix the heave-ho for my viewing time. But over the course of the last year, something odd has happened. Basically, nothing. I still see the same movies and TV shows, and the restrictions on how long content is available is really getting annoying. But when Hulu Plus became available, I figured that all of my gripes would be answered (for $9.95 a month). But alas, I’ve not quite figured out what the Plus gets you, other than a so-so iPad app. My advice? Avoid it for now and make them work for your dollar.
Note: you may be wondering why I didn’t include the iPod app, iPad video player or YouTube. Well, it’s because they’re already included mainly. The iPad app is fine for music and audiobooks, and I really don’t use the video player for much (I don’t rent much content or download video podcasts to my iPad – yet). And the YouTube app sucks like Sarah Palin in a Junior High Spelling Bee. Your mileage may vary, but I’m willing to bet you’ll spend more time with the apps I listed.