Wednesday, 8 August 2012

PBPlayer gains ads, loses purpose

Video and audio player PBPlayer used to be a simple and effective media player with a minimal set of Android permissions. It didn't ask for your location and it never went online. But not anymore.

Thumbs and times

A recent update added video thumbnail images, which you can switch off if you like the app to stay clean and minimalist. The video list of PBPlayer now shows the duration of your movies too, but not the length of your audio files.

The video thumbnail images generated by PBPlayer will appear in your gallery apps because the makers of PBPlayer forget to add a .nomedia file to the PBThumbnails folder. You can remove the unwanted thumbnails by adding an empty (text) file or empty folder called .nomedia (including the leading dot) to the PBThumbnails folder on your memory card.

Ads sneaked in

The "what's new" section of the Google Play Store page is empty. The general app description lists some of the updates, but not all. It fails to mention that the app uses two new Android permissions (full internet access and network location) and it fails to explain what those permissions are used for. A look at the scan results of Addons Detector gives the answer. Online access and spying on your whereabouts was added for one reason only: advertising. PBPlayer used to be free of ads, but now it throws banners from AdMob and AdSense on your screen.

The inclusion of advertising isn't mentioned anywhere in the app description. I'd be all for a Google Play Store requirement that forces every app developer to disclose all sources of in-app advertising before you install it. But even without such a formal requirement it's good manners to disclose the presence and source of your advertising in advance.

Of course you'll never notice the ads if you root you phone and run AdAway or DroidWall to keep PBPlayer offline, but that works for any other media player too and there are plenty of apps that blow PBPlayer out of the water.

Missing alternatives

Given the number of downloads (in the order of 10.000 as I write this) it is very unlikely that the makers of PBPlayer will make any money from their ads. Their user base is way too small for that, and by adding ads to an app that's outperformed by the competition the number of users will remain low.

A donation link that launches your web browser (so the app itself doesn't need any internet or location permissions) would be much more effective for an app with such a small user base. Alternatively, the makers of PBPlayer could sell an ad-free paid version of their app, but for some reason they didn't do that.


By adding ads without offering a paid ad-free version PBPlayer lost its only purpose, that of an offline player for local content. It is no longer a match for apps for like MX Video Player, so PBPlayer is no longer on my phone. I now use MoboPlayer (DroidWalled offline) for locally stored movies, and MX Video Player for online video streams. You could do it the other way 'round, because there is not much difference between Mobo and MX unless you have some very exotic codec requirements.

MX Video Player

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