Thursday, February 23, 2012

Squrl It Away.... Find Videos You Really Want To Watch.... Plus A Solution To Watching Videos While Offline On Your iDevice!

I often find myself answering tech questions in social settings. I really enjoy my job in the world of tech and ad hoc conversations come with the territory. I carry my iPad with me most of the time and this often sparks questions about the device, applications, and how I utilize it in my everyday work flow. For me, the iPad is very much a productivity tool, not simply a great gadget to consume content. However, for many, content consumption is the primary use for tablets and increasingly, tablets are doing extra duty  as "mobile video appliances" in our lives. No one I know is willing to replace their 40 plus inch 1080p hi-def screen for an  iPad. But while traveling or just out and about, iPads, Kindle Fires and Android tablets create a great video playback experience. But there are some hurdles even if you can find the content you are pining to view.

Want To Watch SpongeBob Without Wi-Fi or 3G Access? Keep Reading!

More and more, parents are providing their kids with iPads. And we all know kids love video!  As we approach the third generation of the iPad device and the "revolution" it has unleashed, I suspect more children will be recipients of a parent's earlier model. Very young kids exposed to this device intuitively seem to "get it;" it's fascinating to watch a pre-schooler interact with an iPad screen. 

Parents are also known to use the iPad as a techno "babysitter." Get a kid focused on a game of Angry Birds, or watching some new You Tube video (don't forget the headsets Mom!) and you have a pacified, quiet, youngster in your midst. The question posed to me was rather straightforward and candidly I was surprised I hadn't been confronted with this inquiry before, "How can I load up an iPad with You Tube videos for my kid to watch on an upcoming trip?"

Whether you have a wi-fi only iPad, are traveling in areas with weak or no 3G cellular data service, are flying and you, your kid, and SpongeBob Squarepants are stuck in "Airplane Mode," or  you are simply concerned about exceeding the increasingly stingy monthly data caps imposed by Verizon and AT&T, queuing video for later retrieval is a valid and needed service.

Watching videos isn't just for kids and while You Tube may be the elephant in the video store, there are plenty of other free and fee based alternatives. If you are a subscriber of Netflix or HBO through your cable provider, you should have the companion iOS Apps loaded on your iPad. I am not a big fan of Hulu Plus, and this post isn't centered on getting quality video content (or cord cutting as it is being popularized), but suffice it to say there is plenty of entertaining video content within easy reach with a connected Android or iOS device. (And content alternatives, while already widely discussed, may be a worthwhile follow up post.)

So I expanded the question of offline viewing to include finding video content which is relevant to you (or your kid).First things first, "there's an App for that!" Squrl. Not only does this video aggregator allow you to view, watch, and que, videos from a variety of sources with one easy to navigate interface, but it adds a social component to the process. You can easily view and share videos with friends and followers alike by linking your free Squirl Account with your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Netflix Accounts! (Of course you have to allow this interaction between Squirl and the various third party sites and in the case of Netflix both parties have to be paying subscribers.)

You may, or may not, want to let your networked social world know that you just downloaded two Spongebob Squarepants clips, or that you spent your morning break soaking in the brilliant repartee between Ellen and Taylor Swift. What, when, and if,  you share is your decision and this element of the App's design will be an enhancement for some and a distraction for others. Regardless of where you fall on the "I don't need another social App!" meter, Squirl will help you find and organize more compelling video content.

You needn't be tethered to your iPad to get the Squrl to bounce across your screen. There is a browser plug in accessable through the company's web portal. (Click in the upper right corner for the bookmarklet.) This is the best video aggregator I have found . As of this writing, Squrl is focused on your desktop and iOS devices. Android users aren't part of the tree forest yet, but the company is planning on releasing Android tablet friendly alternatives in the future.  In addition to the video saltwarts, you can find inspiring videos from Ted, fun diversions for the kids via Sesame Street, Disney, Vimeo and much more. (For a more comprehensive content listing, click on the "more" button at the bottom of this page.)

Back to the original challenge. How do you manage to get video onto your iPad available for viewing when you are faced without even so much as a wi-fi connection to your name? Gasp! I looked at several iOS Apps which attempt to address this need. The iLegendsoft App Free Video Downloader and Manager is actually designed for the iPhone but doubles quite nicely on the iPad. It is functional, performs its task as promised and yes, it works with You Tube. (Due to You Tube's licensing restrictions, none of the apps I tried are able (legally) to claim compatibility with the king of online video. However, the Free Video Downloader    does indeed work just fine with You Tube. (Simply go to the app's browser, type in, find the video(s) of interest and click download.) Once the videos are on your iDevice, you can organize them and you are off to the races! There are several other Apps, some specifically designed for the iPad, but this program offered the best mix of functionality, stability, and security during my admittedly limited testing.

This App has a number of nice additional features. You can organize your videos into categories, password protect your videos to keep them private, and select options to backup and transfer your videos (via wi-fi) to the iCloud or local iTunes databases.

There is a Pro version which will set you back 99 Cents. As far as I can tell, this eliminates some relatively unobtrusive ads which run in the browser window. If this App allows you to have some valued peace and quiet on your next trip while Johnny and SpongeBob are exchanging pleasantries, or gives you a chance to listen to a great speech from during an otherwise uncomfortable hour in the belly of a jet's economy class, why not reward this developer and shell out a dollar for the pro version!?

Unfortunately, there is no easy way I have found to combine the power of these two apps. Wouldn't it be nice to use Squrl to curate your video and then have a direct link to iLegendSoft's Free Video Downloader to make your Squrl que available while offline!? This Free Downloader is one acorn Squirl should be socking away for Version 2.0! (If there's a merger, takeover, or collaboration, which comes from this suggested synergy, I am more than willing to accept whatever payment the two parties think my inspiration may be worth.)

Do you have another solution for viewing video content offline?  If you think this post might be of value to a friend or business associate, please re-share this post on Google+, Twitter, or FaceBook.

I currently participate in Associate Programs and certain item links included within this post may tie to this affiliate program. By using these links, you help support Music Row Tech, I appreciate your support

Companies:   Facebook, Google, Hulu Plu, Squrl, iLegendSoft.

I currently hold a long position in: $GOOG

This commentary is not meant as an endorsement of any company or to provide financial advice.  If the author has any financial interest in any company mentioned at the time of this article’s posting, it will be explicitly noted. I welcome feedback and comments. 

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All rights reserved @2012, Music Row Tech (MRT). Any reproduction without the author's consent is prohibited.

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