by Andy J. Williams Affleck @aaffleck | Sep 29th 2014 at 5:30PM
Originally published on TUAW.com.
I’m old enough to remember when Real Video was the only game in town for streaming video. Once upon a time, everyone had some version of real on their computer. Then it went out of fashion or was overtaken by others, perhaps YouTube? I honestly do not remember. I was shocked to discover that RealNetworks are not only still around but introduced (about a year ago) a new app and service: RealPlayer Cloud.
RealPlayer Cloud could be described as yet another video sharing app, but, unlike others, which mostly seem geared towards broadcasting videos to the world via Vimeo, YouTube, and the like, RealPlayer Cloud is also about sharing videos with specific people across multiple devices.
After you create an account and grant the app all of the necessary permissions to access various services on your iPhone or iPad, it automatically populates its library with every video it can find on your phone in your camera roll. If you also run the companion Mac or PC app, both of which build your library from every video it can find on your hard drive (excluding those in iTunes, iPhoto, Aperture or iMovie libraries), then the library you view on your phone and on your PC or Mac contains every video from both sources (provided the app is running on your Mac or PC at the time, once you quit the app, the phone’s library only shows items local to the phone).
It does not attempt to figure out duplicates so my own library consists of two copies of many videos, one from my camera roll, and one scraped from Dropbox where I back up my pictures and videos on my phone. Each video gets a helpful icon depicting whether it is from the computer’s library (a Mac icon), the local library (a camera icon), or the cloud (a cloud icon). If you tap on either a cloud-based or a computer-based video, it begins downloading the video immediately. As the data plans for RealPlayer are not free, it would have been nice to be given a dialog confirming that I was ok with this, perhaps even letting me know where I was in using my data plan.
Videos themselves play smoothly, but I would expect no less from a company who has been doing this as long as RealNetworks has. AppleTV is also supported via AirPlay. When a video ends, you are given the choice to upload it to RealPlayer Cloud or to share it with friends. If you tap out of this screen, you have to rewatch (or scroll to the end of) the video to get those back or use the share options on the home screen.
There are three menus on the home screen, the left menu denoted by the now-standard three lines that slides open a left panel giving you access to your camera (to shoot new video), your account information (including data used so far), and the free space on your iPhone or iPad (very handy). The middle menu lets you filter your library (camera roll vs. cloud vs. downloaded vs. Computer). The right-most menu is a mix of functions confusingly grouped under the older, pre-iOS 7 sharing icon (a rectangle with a curved arrow, now a square with an upward arrow since iOS 7).
This icon generally calls up a menu where you can send selected content. In this case, you cannot select content until after you invoke this menu and tell it what you choose to do. Not every choice in the menu is about choosing and sharing, some of it is about sorting your library and choosing how it displays. These would make much more sense in the center menu. But I digress. Once you choose what you want to do (upload, download, add to a collection, delete, rename or share) you can then select the videos you want and start whatever process you wanted to start. I think the basic iOS Photos app handles this much better letting you select first and choose operations after.
Videos may be shared with people on social networks or directly via Messages, Email or by copying a link and passing it to someone else as you wish. They do not need to have a RealPlayer Cloud account to watch the video but unless you are a paid member, you cannot upload HD quality video and the results are less that optimal.
RealPlayer Cloud provides access to popular online videos in three categories: Daily Top 5 (though I do not know what criteria this is based on), Facebook videos posted by your friends, provided you have connected your Facebook account, of course, and Videos you have bookmarked from the previous two screens.
RealPlayer Cloud is a free universal app for iPhone and iPad requiring iOS6 and up. Storage plans are available in-app as monthly subscriptions at US$1.99 for 10GB, $4.99 for 25GB and $9.99 for 100GB. Plans renew automatically and can be managed via your iTunes account as you would any other iOS Subscription. The obvious question is whether this is worth it. With iOS 8, I can share videos with members of my family easily enough with iCloud Family Sharing as well as to various social networks. What is harder to do is to share videos with various friends who are not in my iCloud Family Sharing group and that’s where this app could come in handy.
Also, because it scrapes video from the device it is on, it is a great way to collect everything in one central location quickly and easily. (I discovered some older videos I’d completely forgotten about on my Mac by doing this.) From there you can decide what you wish to upload and how much data you need or want to pay for. For me, the most important feature is what it does for you if you have a smaller device: upload your videos into the cloud and get them off your phone. With RealPlayer Cloud you’ll have room to shoot new video and you’ll have access to many more of your videos to share and play for people.