Vodio is a free iOS app that attempts to take Flipboard’s model of “social reading” and apply it to the online video space. It has been available for iPad for some time, but has recently received an update to make it a fully Universal app with a new iPhone-specific interface. This review is based on the new iPhone incarnation of the service.
Like Flipboard, Vodio initially invites users to select areas of interest from which to draw content. Users may also connect their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts to the service for a more personalized selection of content from their friends and followers. Additional “channels” may be added at a later time if the user wishes.
Once into the app proper, the user is presented with the “highlights” channel, which puts together a playlist of videos drawn from all of the selected sources and social networks. Videos will play continuously once started, meaning the user can effectively use the app as a form of “Internet TV” without needing to constantly interact with it — though this facility may be switched off via the app’s preferences. AirPlay compatibility means that it’s also possible to view the videos on a big TV screen via Apple TV if desired.
Videos can be viewed in either portrait or landscape orientation. In the former mode, it’s possible to view the video’s description along with its source, while in the latter the video fills the screen. In both modes, users may share the video via email, Facebook or Twitter, add it to a Watch Later channel or rate it with a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down,” which helps to refine the app’s recommendations for the user.
The app is very well presented, with smooth animations and new videos “popping” into view as the user scrolls down each channel’s list of content, somewhat reminiscent of the Google+ iOS app’s aesthetic. Icons are clear and their functionality obvious, and upon initial startup the user is given a straightforward on-screen tutorial explaining what each item does to ensure everything is completely clear.
In fact, the only thing the app is really missing is a traditional “search” function — instead of taking a Last.FM-like approach of being able to start from a specific video and get recommendations that stem from that, Vodio instead focuses on recent (or at least recently-shared) content. While this, for the most part, ensures that the app will always be showing topical, up-to-date material, it also takes a degree of control away from the user — a factor which has proven unpopular with some App Store reviewers. Also highlighted by some commenters is the fact that the content in Vodio’s own channels is very U.S.-centric, which makes it less relevant and interesting to international users. Perhaps if the app had a degree of location awareness or simply some “international” channels, this wouldn’t be so much of an issue.
Vodio is a good quality app and a solid way to discover new video content. With the addition of a search function, it would make an excellent replacement for the iPhone’s built-in YouTube app, which is set to be removed in iOS 6. Without it, however, some users may feel like the app is leading their experience rather than the other way around — and while some may not have a problem with this, others may prefer a little more control over their video discovery.
You can follow Vodio’s progress through the App Store charts with AppData, our tracking service for iOS and social apps and developers.