We rolled out our first release of Plex for Android on February 11th, 2011. Since then, we’ve made a lot of progress. Many fixes have been made and remote control functionality was added. Despite the fact that Plex for Android hasn’t been officially supported on tablets or Honeycomb – over 10% of purchases were for tablets and half of these were for the Xoom. Support for the Motorola Xoom has been the most requested new feature, and an enterprising lobbying group of Xoom users opened a topic on our forums to badger us to get our butts in gear and get them a version of Plex that works on their shiny new Xooms. We are thus thrilled to announce that as of today, you may now “Plex” on your Xoom!
As part of the support for Xoom, we’ve done a complete revamp of the application to make better use of all the space available. Our design team went to work, and I think you’ll be pleased with these sexy new views for your media. Check out some of these mouthwatering screenshots!
Movie, tv shows and episodes now use a summary view.
National Geographics Photo of the Day – square photo summary cards.
Music Album layout is now a grid with cover art.
Photos are displayed with a grid layout from “The Big Picture”. Thank goodness dog sledding season is over!
Nice screenshots but what about video playback?
Okay, okay – we know it’s all about the video. Honeycomb adds some features that make video work even better than before, and video looks amazing on the Xoom.
The quality of the video is conservatively low by default, so make sure that you experiment to find the best settings, which can vary with the specific device and your network.
For local and remote Wi-Fi, we recommend that you start at around 1.5Mbps and work your way up from there. On 3G networks, you’re not going to get HD video, so start at 320kbps and move up from there. For you lucky people on 4G, you shouldn’t have a problem getting same level of quality as you’re getting on remote Wi-Fi, and potentially better. On small devices (e.g. mobile phones) you should never need to go above 2Mbps.
We think you will be really happy with the quality of video on Honeycomb devices. If you’re a Xoom user on a fast Wi-Fi network, you should be able to use the highest quality setting. We’re getting nice crisp 720p video streamed in real time from our Plex Media Server, and we also support Direct Streaming, which provides ultra-fast startup and seeks and no loss of video quality through transcoding.
Try different quality settings and see what works best for you, and feel free to share and ask questions on our forums!
What about small screen devices?
This release is by no means exclusively for devices with large screens. There are many layout enhancements for smaller form factors, and of course all the fixes to the core system apply to smaller devices as well. There are newly introduced icon views, summary views and photo views that we think you’ll really love.
Additionally, you will notice a bit more responsiveness related to loading, displaying and scrolling. It turns out those darn tablets can show quite a few images simultaneously so testing there quickly showed us where Plex image handling was sluggish. Improvements in that area definitely help even on smaller form factor devices. If the tablets are responsive then the smaller devices are downright zippy. Here are some screen shots of the smaller devices:
Is that it!?
There are many other improvements in this release which might not be immediately obvious. The sharp-eyed out there will have already noticed that the soft ‘back’ and ‘menu’ buttons in the screenshots above have been removed. Here’s a run down of things you might notice:
New: layouts to support large screen and some new ones for small screen per images above… ’nuff said.
New: fast-scrolling has been turned on for all grid and list views for those of you who have monstrous local libraries.
New: support for Direct Streaming which allows video streaming without transcoding.
New: support for Direct Play which plays compatible video directly from the source (off by default).
Improved: soft buttons (back, menu) are now off by default and popular demand. For those who want to keep them on (you know who you are) – navigate to Settings / Advanced Settings, scroll down to last setting and enable the soft buttons option. If you’re having trouble getting to Settings – temporarily turn on airplane mode then either try to navigate somewhere else or restart the application and Plex will take you there.
If you’re interested in more details and/or what’s changing in our releases now and forevermore – you can sign up for a Plex forums account and ‘watch’ our Plex for Android changelog page. We update this page for all our public releases.
Caveats and disclaimers
This is our first release on Honeycomb and we’ve found it’s a bit fussy sometimes with respect to the media subsystem. On more than one occasion we’ve managed to kill our Honeycomb device and only a hard power cycle would correct the issue. At this time the Xoom is the only Honeycomb device we have in our test labs and while we’re working very hard to ensure platform independence we’re pretty sure that there will be at least some surprises as we roll out to other Honeycomb devices. It seems supporting every Android device has some challenges for multimedia applications. (Those of you who already know this – please stop laughing).
As our first release for tablets we expect that some large screen devices may be less than perfect from a layout perspective… and for non-Honeycomb devices you won’t get the same level of hardware support for video playback. Just come visit us on the forums if you happen to find any issues on one of those devices and we’ll be happy to help with any issues you’re seeing.
Is THAT it!?
Of course not! Well, yeah, that’s it for now… but rest assured there’s plenty more to come so stay tuned. Watch my blog for more updates specifically around Android, and of course follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest on all that is Plex.