Back in June 2012, when Android Jelly Bean was released, I wrote a post on streaming video on the Android platform. Streaming video to Android at that time was a challenge, but 8 months later, have things progressed? Check out the link below to find out what the guys at Longtail found.


Development Streaming

Google’s latest dessert on the menu was shipped with flagship device Nexus 7: Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Whilst you can find all the new features and fixes of this software release here, what’s more interesting for the engineering team @ Orca Digital is what it means for the future of video on android.

There are multiple ways of delivering video to Android devices: RTSP, Progressive Playback / Download, via alternative components (i.e. Flash or YouTube) and since Honeycomb (3.0) – HLS (HTTP Live Streaming). For VOD (Video-on-Demand) media, progressive playback / download is by far the easiest option – allowing for static mp4 / mov files to be consumed via a native app or in-browser (using HTML5 video tags). For LIVE media however, it is harder. Native apps and browser sites rely on RTSP and Flash (and HLS since Honeycomb) to deliver their rich video content.

However, as some of you may know, Adobe had announced back in November last year that it will stop supporting future iterations of the Android OS after 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). In June, they made their position clearer by stating that they will be removing the Flash Player application from the Google Play Store after August 15. This meant that although Flash is a prominent platform for delivering video on the web, its a completely different story for the mobile space (no flash on iOS and Android 4.1+). This narrows the choices of video delivery down to RTSP, Progressive and HLS (only 3.0 and above). Furthermore, for live video, progressive download is not an option, hence RTSP and HLS are the only options.

In summary, due to the fragmentation of Android devices (in terms of OS versions and device variations), application and website developers will now have to re-consider their approach towards delivering video to android devices. Flash is becoming obsolete in mobile, Google is jumping on the HLS bandwagon, but at the same time existing 2.3 users (Gingerbread and below) can only consume RTSP content as HLS is not available. Good luck!

Update (2012-08-22): Also to note – since Jelly Bean will use Chrome as the default browser and ditch the ‘Internet Browser’, the H.264 codec support will also be dropped and so only WebM videos can be consumed on Jelly Bean’s Chrome HLS video playback. (What were they thinking?)

Update 2 (2012-09-28): Here’s a link to the how the BBC dealt with the changes for their native iPlayer application. In summary, the BBC has (interestingly) decided to still bet its cash on flash – by building a ‘player’ application (written using Adobe AIR) which will accompany the standard application. In a good way, it does ensure that the majority of the phones all share the same user experience

Update 3 (2012-10-17): Here’s also a good read about video on android