VLC for iPhone: free app can play any video format on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch


One of the major annoyances with watching video on the iPhone is the need to convert them into iPhone friendly format first (H264 video encoder, AAC audio, 640 max width, and MP4 wrapper).

And while in theory video conversions are not that difficult, in practice I found myself simply avoiding watching video on my iPhone altogether, rather than deal with video conversions and with iTunes insisting on managing my media library.

Enter the free VLC app for iPhone. Yes, folks, this is the same multiplatform free media player that you’re familliar with on your PC, and its still super awesome.

It allows you to play any video format of any size on your iPhone or iPad, including MKV, AVI, MPEG, and over oversized MP4s with large HD resolutions, as well as most formats you could think of.

You still need to use iTunes to sync your videos with VLC, but now you can avoid dealing with iTunes as a media library management software and skip straight to dragging and dropping your videos into the VLC app (see below for a description of how this is done).

I’ve always resisted the temptation to review iPhone apps on this blog, even if they were free; however, this free app is such a revelation and has so transformed the usefulness of my iPhone device that I decided to help promote it. Plus, its VLC, familliar to every freeware aficionado and most readers of this blog. More notes on this app as follows:

  • Plays almost any format: including MKV and AVI, and files with large HD resolutions.
  • Syncs via iTunes: once you’ve installed the VLC app, click on your iPhone in the left sidebar in iTunes then on the apps tab. Scroll down to the “apps that share files with iTunes” section and click on VLC. Next drag and drop your media files onto the file window and they will immediately start to sync. iTunes will not need to recognize them as media files or insert them into its media library. VLC sync
  • Deleting videos from the device: is done within the VLC app, not in iTunes.

The verdict: an awesome app that has opened up a world of possibilites. Now you can simply drag and drop video downloaded from the internet and watch it on your device, without the need for time consuming conversions, multiple versions of your videos cluttering up your hard drive space, or dealing with iTunes’ media library.

Simply fantastic. The only question I have is if VLC could do it, surely Apple could have as well. So why in the world didn’t they enable their devices to do this in the first place?

Version Tested: 1.1.0

Compatibility: Requires iOS 3.2 or later. Runs on the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad, and the recent iPod touches.

Go to VLC page on iTunes to install.

  • I’m anxiously awaiting VLC to come to Android. Glad to know their on the way to mobile.

  • Rad

    That file sharing section in itunes is the worst UI I have ever seen. Its so hidden. I really think this ability needs to be more prominent.

  • VLC to come to Android, now wait ends!

  • wayne

    VLC sent take down notice to apple

  • Nax

    Great app, but did any of the developers use it before they released to the public? The landscape orientation switches back to portrait after just a few degrees of rotation. Wth? Who watches videos on a iphone or ipod in portrait mode? Is it that so unthinkable to offer a lock screen option? The one on iOS4 locks the screen in portrait mode always, because it seems VLC’s default mode is portrait. If they can fix this, the app will be the preferable method of watching videos on a idevice.

  • Phil

    Unfortunately, looks like this may not remain in the appstore for much longer. [www.engadget.com]

  • Anjan

    Thanks for this one!
    Please review more iPhone apps.

  • ifans

    hahaha Vlc is out of the appstore!!!…poor ifans.

  • Gutbucket

    This announcement sounds great, but after all the time and effort wasted on doing an end run to convert media files to an iPod compatible format and seeing nothing about VLC in any of the forums or postings until now sort of pisses me off. Will I download and use VLC? Probably, but I’ll be seething with rage every time I use it.

  • Dante

    Man it really struggles with .avi files even at 720×480.
    Just saying.

    • Samer

      @ Dante: it struggles with some videos. It must also depend on the kind of iPhone you’re using. On my iPhone 4 I’ve played all sorts of video sizes without any problems, but now I avoid large MKV files.

  • ArXal ArIan

    The best method that i use to play mkv files on iPhone is to use “iFunBox”. First you have to install “VLC” app in your device from “App Store”. Now simply connect your device whether it is iPhone or iPad etc, and launch iFunBox. On top left corner there is an option “iFunBox Classic” click on it and your connected device will be there double click on it and look for an option “Raw File System” and open it. Then look for “User” folder and open it then open “Applications” folder. All apps installed on your device will be listed there. Now look for “VLC” app and open it now open the folder “Documents”. The only thing that you have to do now is to copy your mkv or other format files in this folder by using “Copy from PC” option. After your files been copied open “VLC” app in your device and play the files and VOILAAAAA…..