App Review: Infuse (iOS)

Cover art, metadata and a multitude of supported formats make this one of the best video playback apps available for iOS devices.

By , Columnist

There are many video playback apps in Apple's App Store, several of which have excellent transcoding capability. None, however, is as aesthetically impressive as Infuse.

Infuse comes from Firecore, the people behind the aTV Flash software package for jailbroken second generation Apple TVs. A version of Infuse with an impressive interface can be installed on Apple TVs that have aTV Flash running. Compared with its peers, though, it's the mobile app that raises the bar.

When you open Infuse you are presented with a screen that gives an overview of any videos you have uploaded to the app. Files can be imported using a browser, FTP, iTunes or other apps and instructions are provided for each of these options. If your files are ripped movies or TV shows, Infuse will search TheMovieDB and TheTVDB online and automatically download and display cover art for each title. Your videos will then be displayed as an attractive gallery of movie posters rather than as generic icons.

An image from each movie or TV show is also displayed in a slider that occupies the upper part of the library screen. The slider cycles through these images and also shows a couple of lines of descriptive text. Tapping on the slider images or the thumbnails brings up a mock strip of movie tickets that show the same images, more detailed descriptive text about each film or TV show and sharing buttons for Facebook, Twitter and trakt.

Screenshot_2.jpgThe descriptive text includes a brief synopsis, the genre, year of release, the running time, the rating and the names of the director, cast and writers. A rating out of 5 stars and the resolution of the video file are also shown. Although this is a lot of information, it is smartly dispersed so that it doesn't look crowded or disrupt the movie ticket metaphor.

To play each video you simply tap the word 'Play', which is displayed near the bottom of the virtual tickets below a line that looks like perforations. This produces a neat animated effect that simulates the bottom of the ticket being ripped off by a cinema attendant.

The playback screen itself is basic, with controls for Play/Pause, Previous Chapter and Next Chapter, an elapsed time slider and icons for Settings and AirPlay. The last of these was recently added to Infuse and allows you to beam the video you are watching to an Apple TV. One thing that is missing is the means to set a bookmark but movies do resume from where you left off if you leave the app and come back later.

Screenshot_3.jpg

The Settings menu in the playback screen provides a set of options for adjusting the brightness and framing and for selecting the chapter, audio track and subtitle track. The audio formats AAC, AC3, FLAC, OGG and MP3 are supported and there are numerous ways to display subtitles.

Infuse is optimized for Retina displays but regardless of whether you have the latest iOS device or something older, you should expect seamless transcoding of a wide range of video formats, including MP4, AVI, MKV, MOV, FLV and WMV. We tried the app on an iPhone 5 and an iPad 2 and had no playback problems with 720p and standard definition videos. The App Store description states that the app supports 1080p playback but the benefits of that resolution are restricted to devices that have a screen that can reproduce it

Infuse is very well-crafted app that is not only beautifully designed but is very good at what it does. As a result, you might find yourself wishing it would do more (like access UPnP servers, for instance). Additional features might come down the road, of course, but for the time being you would be hard pressed to find an app for playing videos on your iOS device that presents a better picture.

ICON_Infuse.jpgSpecifications (at press time):

  • Version: 1.4 $4.99/£2.99
  • Requires iOS 5.0 or later
  • Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

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Michael Simpson is a freelance writer, editor, presenter, researcher, instructor, gadget freak and sci-tech consultant based in British Columbia’s beautiful Okanagan Valley. Formerly from the UK, he’s converted from tea to coffee and written and presented on film, TV, science, nature, technology,…

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