In the sea of App Store releases and updates, it’s easy to get lost and forget about that great app you used to love. New apps come around, better alternatives for just about anything are provided by developers and, especially if you’re geek, you know what it means to constantly tweaking your workflow to accomodate the latest offering in the iOS or OS X panorama. In the past week, I’ve rediscovered an app I had for a long time, but somehow managed to leave unused in my iTunes app library: Air Video.
I’ve always been a fan of Air Video and have been following the development (and updates) closely. Yet, for the reasons mentioned above, during the past months I kind of forgot how useful this app used to be, and how greatly it could improve my media consumption experience. So when the iPad 2 showed up at my doorstep and the thinner design made it crystal clear that it was easier (for me) to hold with one hand, I remembered about Air Video. And I’ve fallen in love with it all over again.
I have to admit I started using Air Video again because a) I knew it was a great app and I was missing out as I focused on new apps and b) the iPad 2 is thinner, lighter and it makes it easier for me to hold it for hours while watching a movie on the couch. This, combined to the fact that I recently added a couple of external drives to my AirPort Extreme via a powered USB hub, convinced me to give a try to Air Video once again as a solution to store movies and TV shows outside my MacBook Pro, and stream them to the iPad with live conversion. For those who haven’t heard of Air Video, it’s a universal app for the iPhone and iPad that can stream any kind of video, in any format, to an iOS device thanks to a system called “live conversion” that converts a file in real-time so your device can play it back. In order for this to work, you’ll need to install a server application on your Mac that acts as a bridge between your movie files and the iOS app. The server handles streaming, conversion, subtitles, file location and remote access. Indeed, Air Video can stream movies off any folder on your Mac or connected local / network drive, and enables you to remotely access your media library over WiFi and 3G.
Like I said the iPad 2′s form factor makes it incredibly comfortable to hold the thing for hours and not feel the weight or pressure on my wrists — not to mention the Smart Cover, which we’ve seen can double as a stand for watching movies. The design of the iPad 2 and the Smart Cover’s functionalities combined with the fact that Air Video lets me watch my movies stored on an external drive without worrying about their format make for a great setup. Remote access is equally impressive and user-friendly: you don’t have to mess with forwarding ports and global DNS hostnames, you just enable it and the app gives you a PIN. Once the PIN is entered into the iOS client, Air Video will automatically find your Mac and start streaming remotely. I can now carry my iPad 2 around,connect it to the iPhone’s Personal Hotspot and stream my media library wherever I am. Welcome to the future.
Air Video comes with many additional features such as local conversion, AirPlay and global settings on the iOS client, which you should check out on the developers’ website. In the end, this article isn’t really about the iPad 2 and how it makes everything so much better — rather, it’s about great software like Air Video. Great, innovative apps that never grow old in spite of alternatives coming out. With the iPad 2 and my AirPort Extreme I rediscovered Air Video, and I’m happy with it.