Smartphones are considered the “second screen” by Hollywood. TV networks focus on ways to increase social media and other web platform interactions on mobile while watching your favorite shows on TV.
But the smartphone is increasingly becoming the main screen we watch videos on. An estimated 169.5 million people will be watching mobile video this year, which represents over 50 percent of all video viewing across all devices.
Watching video on your phone can be difficult, however, if you’re not just downloading them straight from the Play or App Store. What if you want to watch a DVD you own? Or a file from a friend’s camera? Perhaps you’ve come across a broken or incomplete video file or don’t recognize the format.
There are a ton of use-case scenarios for watching video on your phone, and we’ve seen them all. With that being said, we’re going to go over the best video apps for mobile devices.
Best Paid Streaming Video App – Netflix
Netflix started in 1997 as a DVD-by-mail sales and rental company, but these days it’s more known as one of the largest sources of streaming Internet service in the world. Operating in 190 countries, it has deals with a variety of Hollywood studios to stream their content. It also creates original TV and movie content like Bright and Disjointed.
Netflix is available on iOS, Android, Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo gaming consoles, and many smart TVs. While the app itself is free, the service currently costs $10.99/month for the standard plan and $13.99/month for the HD plan. Also the upgraded plan doubles the amount of simultaneous screens you can watch on from two to four.
Netflix also offers the ability to download shows and movies to your device. So if you’re going somewhere without service, it’s great for stockpiling some content to keep yourself (or your kids) busy.
Best Free Streaming Video App – Kodi
Kodi is by far the best media app on any device. Originally started in 2002 as the Xbox Media Center, Kodi began on the first-generation Xbox as a way to watch movies and listen to music on the console. It’s open-sourced and was soon released as XBMC for Android, Linux, Windows, iOS, Raspbian, and macOS systems.
Kodi is a platform for accessing media files, and there’s a plethora of addons and plugins available. I did a full review for Updato earlier this year describing the full functionality (including piracy). Just know that there’s nothing you can’t watch (livestreaming, remote streaming, or local) using Kodi.
In fact, Kodi has plugins for every other media player on this list and elsewhere, including SOPCast, AceStream, YouTube, and more. It doesn’t have the prettiest UI nor most elegant navigation, but Kodi is a powerful tool you should have on every device you own.
Best Paid Local Video App – Plex
Like Netflix, the Plex app is technically free. If you’re unfamiliar, Plex lets you create a home media server to organize all your locally stored music, photos, and videos. You can then stream those files from anywhere, and on your desktop, the basic version of Plex is absolutely free.
However, you’ll need the Plex Pass for the full feature set, which includes streaming from your mobile device. Plex Pass costs either $4.99/month, $39.99/year, or a one-time fee of $119.99 for lifetime service.
What makes Plex so special is its ability to streamline media from a variety of sources into a GUI that looks similar to a cable/satellite provider, DVR, or streaming service like Netflix and Hulu. It’s easily the most user-friendly application for those of use with a scattered media collection, and there’s a Kodi plug-in too.
Best Free Local Video App – VLC Media Player
Like Kodi, VLC Media Player is a free, open-source, cross-platform media player. It’s available on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Apple TV, OS/2, Tizen, and Xbox One. It started in 1996 and was initially called “VideoLAN Client.”
In the days before broadband and online media streaming, VLC was the desktop media player to download. This was mostly because of the massive codec library, which allowed you to play virtually any audio or video file. That’s still why you’d want it on your mobile device today.
Broken, incomplete, and still-downloading files can be viewed by VLC, and it’ll expand your compatible file formats on any device. It can decrypt CSS-protected DVDs. It’s also compatible with SOPCast and Acestream, which allow you to live stream sporting events, concerts, and other live broadcasts. It’s sleek, takes up very little space, and is the best free media player for your mobile device.