I’m sure I speak for quite a number of people here when I say that the default video player on the iPad really sucks. I’ve squirrelled it away in an Apple folder somewhere on the third or fourth home screen of my iPad because I don’t want its ugly logo and crappy features clogging up my home screen. Why is this, you are probably wondering? Apple designed the iPad as a multimedia device, yet they make it incredibly difficult to watch your own videos on your device, without having to buy them off the iTunes Store first. On my old Android tablet, I used to whack everything onto a mini SD card, stick it in and press Play on my media player. Sorry to put my loyalties elsewhere, but that experience was a whole lot smoother.
Although there are hundreds of video apps out there on the App Store, a large number of them have horrible, blocky interfaces that look like they’ve been thrown together in a couple of minutes over a cigarette break. What I love in apps is a great design — a clean, crisp interface — as this shows the developers pride themselves both on the looks and functionality of their app. And I think that Infuse ticks both of these boxes. Let’s find out, shall we?
Well, you probably guessed from my introduction that Infuse is a video player for iOS. But it’s a video player with a lot of features hidden under its sleeve – and all that in a fantastic, retina-optimised interface.
The main screen of Infuse, showing my movie collection (currently, part of the first season of Dexter).
Infuse supports up to 14 different media types, including the standard MP4, M4V and MOV files plus MKV, AVI, FLV and a whole lot more. Think of it as VLC for your iPad — the player that will literally play anything. There’s also support for Dolby Digital Plus (AC3 and E-AC3) audio – a big plus if you’ve ripped a lot of HD films which you’d like to play on your iPad.
Individual movies on your iPad are displayed as cinema tickets.
Your movies come up as cinema tickets when you tap on them and Infuse displays a bit more information about each one, such as the video and audio quality and its length. TV show buffs will recognise that I’m currently winding my way through the first season of Dexter (and what a great show that is!) but unfortunately the metadata is screwed — if it weren’t, Infuse would display a description of the episode in the “cinema ticket” view.
Playback is silky smooth on my iPad 3 and I’ve had absolutely no experience of crashing or freezing at all. The controls are standard and one feature that I would like to see (and which is coming in an update) is the opportunity to quickly scroll back or forward 15–30 seconds. Sometimes, my concentration lapses for a moment and I need to flick back to find out what Dexter Morgan said, but trying to do it on the scroll bar (and using my salami fingers) can be quite difficult.
Although the controls are sufficient, the developer has informed me that more advanced ones are coming in an update.
Within the video, you can tap on the cog in the top-right hand corner to play around with the movie a bit. Here you can adjust the brightness and zoom level, adjust the audio (if there are multiple tracks) and (if your metadata is all working properly) grab subtitles for your movie from OpenSubtitles. I find this to be a really useful feature and the ability to be able to turn on or switch off subtitles with just a few taps is very convenient — try doing this in VLC and you’ll see what I mean.
Tapping on the cog in the upper right-hand corner brings up a couple of options for you to customise your playback settings.
I’ll be perfectly honest — I had to look up Trakt when I first downloaded Infuse to see what it was. Now, I can’t get enough of it! In essence it’s an online service that tracks your progress through TV series and when you’re someone like me who has about 5 on the go at once (Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Dexter, The Wire and The Sopranos, to name but a few) then it’s a really useful tool!
Infuse features Trakt integration built right into the app.
Infuse features built-in Trakt support (again, make sure that metadata is up to date!) which marks an episode off as watched the moment you’ve finished it and these changes are pushed automatically to all your devices — a real plus. It’s probably worth mentioning here that Infuse also has an iPhone version (and it’s a universal app as well).
Why Get Infuse?
In short: because it’s pure awesome. It’s only now how much I’ve under-appreciated my iPad in terms of using it as a medium of playing videos. I’ve only got a 16GB iPad with about 2 GB of free space, so before I was streaming most of my videos via Plex, and as you’ll probably know, a few 50 minute TV episodes soon fills up that precious storage space. But Infuse is a really nice addition to my iPad – not only is it well-designed and really simple to use but it also just works. There’s nothing complicated about its functionality and it does just what it’s best at: playing videos. I can’t really ask much more to be honest.
And as I’ve delved deeper into Infuse, I’ve noticed all those little bits that make it one of the go-to apps on my iPad: the animation when you start playing a video (the little ticket stub is “torn off”), the pull-to-refresh when you’ve imported new videos and the speed and ease of deleting video files once you’ve watched them.
Infuse really does tick all the boxes for me and it earns a stellar 9 out of 10 rating. What’s awesome is that development of the app is currently active, so you can expect more features very soon (such as AirPlay support) and it’s an absolute steal at $4.99 (I would gladly pay more, to be perfectly honest with you). An iPad app that manages to be functional, good-looking and addictive is a real rare occurrence on the App Store, but Infuse manages to be all three — in a non-pretentious, subtle and unique way as well.