[App Fridays] MX Player is now a one-stop entertainment destination for Indian language users

MX Player is one of India’s most popular video apps. With its revamped offering, it now caters to diverse tastes of tens of millions of Indians. But there are pros and cons.

MX Player started in South Korea as a cross-platform video player that allowed users to create, edit, download, and playback videos offline. The app enjoys immensely popularity in India, consistently ranking among the most downloaded apps on Google Play Store. The app claims that about 70 percent of its 270 million monthly active users around the world come from India.

In June 2018, Times Internet acquired MX Player for $200 million, and announced that it would turn it into a full-fledged video-streaming platform with movies, shows, music videos, and several hours of original programming. It would compete with the likes of YouTube, Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, Voot, etc. in India.

Last month, MX Player relaunched as an OTT app, offering 50,000 hours of India-specific content in 10 languages, including English, Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam.

Users now have access to live TV channels, web originals, webisodes of serials, comedy shows, concerts, award functions, live and catch-up sports, movies, and top music streamed from Gaana (also owned by Times Internet). And, all this is for free. There are ads though, unlike Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.

Naturally, the app looks different now, with all the content additions. MX Player claims that it has 175 million monthly users in India, of which 65 million are daily actives (second only to YouTube India’s 120 million). It is also the first Android video player to support multi-core decoding, which is 70 percent more battery-efficient than single-core decoding.

It has recorded over 500 million downloads and is the #2 app in the ‘Video Players & Editors’ category of Google Play Store with a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

Let’s dig into the revamped app now.

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At the very outset, MX Player seeks access to audio, video, and other media files on your device. If you deny access, the app shuts down.

Once you allow access, the app takes you to its landing page ‘Local’. This has a list for the videos on your device - WhatsApp videos, Instagram videos, camera videos, screen recordings, and videos downloaded from MX Player itself. There is also a WhatsApp Status saver that allows you to download your contacts’ WhatsApp Status videos on your device. You can turn off this option in Settings.

The core of MX Player lies in the ‘Video’ section. Click on bottom menu bar to go to the programming library. You land on the Home Page that lists all available video content in an endless scroll.

Here, you can choose your preferred language - more than one language can be selected. Language filters help customise the content thrown at you.

There are category-wise tabs on the top of your screen. You can skip the scrolling, and directly jump to a category of your choice - Web Shows, TV, News, Movies, Music (different from Gaana), Sports, and Buzz.

Web Shows are among the most highlighted things on the app. These have MX Originals, as well as licensed shows from a host of content creators including Sony, ALTBalaji, Arre, TVF, Dice Media, OML, and others.

On the TV Shows tab, content is sorted based on languages and genres including mythology, reality, romance, comedy, crime, and food and lifestyle.

The News tab houses live news channels. All channels from the Times Group are available, of course. There’s also Aaj Tak, India TV, DD News, and News X.

The Movies tab lists hundreds of titles across languages with a noticeable focus on regional languages. This category also includes short films and dubbed titles.

The Music tab features song videos (pulled from YouTube) as well as concerts and events. So, you can hop from ‘Marathi Top Hits’ to ‘Mirchi Music Awards’ to artist-specific playlists in various languages.

The Sports tab has catch-up videos on cricket, football, racing, boxing, wrestling, etc. There are tonnes of cricket videos, most of which are from Cricbuzz - the cricket app owned by Times Internet. Interestingly, there is no live cricket yet, because most streaming rights lie with either Hotstar or SonyLIV.

When you play a video, it opens a player that resembles YouTube. But, unlike on YouTube, there is a prominent download button.

All downloaded videos can be played offline - a core feature that makes MX Player so popular in India. Downloaded videos can be viewed by clicking on the Download button on the home page. You can delete the videos at any point.

The Search icon on the homepage makes browsing more convenient. You can view trending searches or do a category-wise search. MX Player supports voice search as well.

Music is the third section on MX Player after ‘Local’ and ‘Video’, which streams songs ‘powered by Gaana’. This is an audio-only experience, and top music playlists, tracks, and albums are available for free.

Finally, under the Me tab, you can personalise your experience. While browsing is possible without logging in, if you want to create watch lists, manage downloads and subscribed channels or become an MX Creator, you have to log in with Facebook.

MX Player suffers from a problem of plenty

MX Player is very congested. There’s a lot happening on the app, and not in an orderly manner. Because the app wants to cater to a mass audience across languages and age groups, it has stuffed itself with content (instant games included) of all shapes, sizes, and formats. This makes browsing rather tiresome, despite the dedicated Search button.

MX Originals is a good concept, no doubt. Shows like Famously Filmfare hosted by popular film actors will drive usage, and help bring in new users. But, its collection of movies and TV shows needs to widen.

The app, however, stands out from its peers by being a free offering. All content on MX Player is ad-supported and can be accessed in its entirety without paying anything. However, a subscription-driven premium version cannot be ruled out for future.

MX Player could have done with a little less content, but that might be a disservice to its users. But, if you are someone scouting for free entertainment all the time, then MX Player is your best bet!

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