VLC used to be my go-to app for watching videos on the iPad, but it was overtaken this past year by Infuse Pro. One of VLC’s updates removed the ability to play audio from certain codecs, and so VLC lost its magical ability to basically play anything you throw at it.
However, I’m rather glad I was forced to look for an alternative player, because I like Infuse Pro a lot more. I don’t use the free version, though, and I paid the full $9.99 IAP to unlock all of the codecs within the app. I liked using VLC for zero dollars and zero cents, but I was also disappointed in how hamstrung it seemed on iOS as a result of being open source. It seems like every few years something is cut from VLC, or it disappears from the App Store altogether. I want a player that will just stick around and work, so I’m happy to pay for one.
Infuse seems to have a pretty good track record for sticking around — it was released on iOS in 2013 — and the app has a much richer interface than VLC. It’s bright and uses all of my shows and movies as background images. I also really appreciate all of the file transfer options it provides: FTP, import from Dropbox / Google Drive, or importing from attached storage devices. It’s really freeing to send videos from the Mac straight to the iPad without any sort of conversion. That was one of the very best things about VLC on iOS, and Infuse Pro is just as good at playing any file you throw at it.
I usually tend to transfer files en masse via iTunes, but AirDrop works very well, provided the video files don’t end in .mp4. MP4 files need to be renamed with .infuse as the extension within Finder. Otherwise, any .mp4 file sent to the iPad over AirDrop is automatically imported to the Photos app (which means iOS will try to sync them to all devices over iCloud Photo Library…).
What really makes Infuse shine is the way it automatically looks up metadata for the video files I add to it. My Firefly and Family Guy episodes are nicely tagged by season, as long as the filenames are written in the standard S01E01 format. Infuse is much more of a media library than VLC ever was for me. Browsing through content is a lot of fun, and it’s wonderful to have episode synopsis and cast information available without having to do any extra work. I’ve spent hours over the past eight years meticulously tagging my music library, and even with special tools to help me add lyrics and album metadata, it’s still not an easy process. Having Infuse Pro do all of this for me, instantly, is a treat, to stay the least.
Infuse won’t be for everyone. For those who just want to watch an occasional video on the iPad without hassle, VLC is still a good free alternative. However, if you want to turn your iPad into a mobile media center and realy enjoy the browsing and watching experience, Infuse Pro is undoubtedly worth the price of admission