Smartphones used to be considered the “second screen” by Hollywood. Production companies and networks were focused on finding ways to coax you into interacting on social media and other web platforms while watching your favorite TV shows. This is why hashtags and tweets were so firmly integrated into nearly every show over the past few years.
However, the smartphone is increasingly becoming the main screen we watch videos on. According to Statista, an estimated 169.5 million people will be watching mobile video this year. Variety reports that this represents more than half of all video viewing.
Dreamworks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg has long stressed the importance of mobile video, and he even left the company to form WndrCo, which hopes to reinvent TV for mobile. In fact, even YouTube and Facebook are pushing for more live-streamed content, as analysts found live streaming is our preferred video format.
With all of this in mind, now’s a great time to review the best live streaming video player for Android. In fact, it’s not only available on Android (nor does it only access live stream video) - it’s a cross-platform video service that everyone should have installed in their home.
That’s right - I’m talking about Kodi.
Download Kodi for Android on Google Play
Live streaming video on any device
Kodi (former known as XBMCf) is a media player software application that’s both free and open-source. It works on Windows, Android, iOS, tvOS, Raspbian, Linux, and FreeBSD. This means you can run it on just about any device you own. You can even find a variety of premade boxes similar to the Roku or Fire TV.
Using the Kodi app for Android, you don’t even need a Kodi box if you have the right hardware. You can just cast to your TV screen using Google Chromecast or some smart TVs. Most modern smartphones can also be connected to your TV through an HDMI cable.
Its open-source nature means that Kodi has a slew of add-ons that can be installed to do whatever you want. It’s essentially the only media player you’ll ever need to install on your smartphone.
Kodi can live stream sports via NFL Mobile, NBA League Pass, etc. It can live stream news from CNN, Fox News, CNBC, and more. You can live stream video games through Twitch TV and YouTube Gaming. And of course it’s possible to live stream user-generated content from just about anyone.
There are even video podcast streams available from a variety of online outlets like CNet.
With Kodi, you can also stream live TV feeds from major networks. Of course, not every network uploads its own content, so you may find yourself pirating some live streams. Because of this, you’ll want to ensure you’re running a VPN app on your Android device to provide security, privacy, and anonymity.
And of course, live streaming video isn’t the only thing Kodi is capable of.
The most versatile media player for any platform
Plex Media Server is one of the most popular media organization platforms for home use. It supports virtually any file type, including hi-fidelity music and high-definition video formats. With Plex, you can organize any files you store locally and stream them throughout your home network and even remotely.
Kodi supports Plex, adding a whole new dimension to the functionality of both. The user interface of Plex is much more appealing than Kodi, and it greatly expands the media formats you can stream. It organizes your media library in a user-friendly manner and makes searching and browsing a snap. It also lets you download and store media files on a home server to be accessed anywhere on the go.
You can download Plex on Google Play, or use your web browser to create an account and sign in through Kodi. Either way, you’ll greatly expand your options.
And Kodi isn’t just for live streaming video - like Spotify, there are thousands of live radio streams available so you can listen to your favorite radio station or user-generated stations and playlists.
Whether you prefer news, talk radio, sports, or any genre of music, you can find it through Kodi’s large library of music-streaming add-ons.
Of course, like any other tool, Kodi isn’t perfect. There are a few downsides to be aware of when using this app for live streaming.
The downsides of Kodi
As with any open-source platform, Kodi does have a somewhat awkward UI. If you’re not tech savvy, it can be difficult navigating to the right settings you’re looking for. It definitely takes some getting used to in the beginning.
In addition, the sheer volume of add-ons can be overwhelming at first. Whereas Fire TV or Roku vet channels appearing on their platforms, Kodi is the wild west. It’s hard to tell whether a channel is an official one from the company or a low-quality pirate channel.
Piracy is another concern when using Kodi. Regulators in the U.K. are already cracking down on the fully loaded Kodi boxes that allow access to pirated content like premium pay-TV channels and first-run Hollywood movies. While the Kodi platform itself is safe, there’s a concerted effort to shut down pirated channels.
If you’re unsure about the legality of a live stream you’re accessing through Kodi, it’s always best to run it behind a VPN. Otherwise, you’re likely to wake up the next morning with a DMCA warning from your ISP. Copyright infringement is a serious thing, and I can never recommend pirating any content without using a VPN.
The removal of net neutrality rules make it even more vital that you install a VPN on your device before using a service like Kodi. ISPs (including cellular ones) will be, at a bare minimum, slowing connections to certain IP addresses, and you can bet that’ll include servers running live streaming content independently.
The bottom line
Kodi is hands-down the best media player you can find on Android or any other platform. Whether you use SopCast, AceStream, Plex, Livestream, Ustream, Twitch, YouTube, or individual TV network apps, you can find the content using Kodi. It’s essentially a hub for all your video- and music-streaming needs, both locally and remote.
It does have its problems, and there are definitely some hot-button regulatory issues to keep an eye on. However, the large user community has always been great about developing workarounds for any use-case you need it for.
If you haven’t already been introduced to Kodi, check it out today. Whether in home or on the go, it’s the only solution you’ll ever need.