This is actually quite an important development as VLC adds support for many extra video formats which are not natively supported by iOS, and brings it closer to parity to Android phones, which have good video support as standard.
It’s quite a compact app – 9 MB to download and 10 MB once installed. To view videos, you first need to upload them using iTunes – this means selecting your phone on the list, switching to the Apps tab, selecting VLC in the box at the bottom and then adding all of the files that you wish to play back. Don’t worry too much as VLC explains this to you when you launch it for the first time. It won’t play any films or TV shows that you’ve synced to play in iTunes, unfortunately.
When you run VLC on the phone, you get a list of files you’ve uploaded – simply press them to play them. The controls are standard video playback controls. In fact, they’ve kept the app really simple, but it works well.
To test it out, I used Stephen Fry’s Happy Birthday GNU message which uses open video formats – an Ogg container, Theora video and Vorbis audio. Out of the box, the iPhone would not have known what to do with this file, but VLC played it back with only minor video stuttering.
The iPhone has H.264 hardware acceleration, but bear in mind that video in other formats will use your device’s main processor and so this will probably drain your battery quite quickly. So if you’re intending to watch a feature length film in an obscure video format, you may want to have your device plugged into the mains.
The app will run on the iPhone 3GS and 4, iPad and recent iPod Touches.