Stream media to your iPhone or iPad with Skifta

There are kinks to be ironed out, but Skifta holds some promise for streaming photos, videos, and music to your iOS device from remote sources.

Perhaps Skifta works better on Android . A universal iOS version of the app was released earlier this month, and I found it to be buggy and prone to crashing. It's worth keeping an eye on, however, because if done right, it could be a useful app for the iPhone and particularly the iPad. Skifta is a free app that lets you stream video, music, and photos from your PC or another networked device in your home. There are also a number of Internet services you can connect to in order to stream media on your iOS device.

If you'd like to take Skifta out for a test drive, here's what you need to do to get started.

First, you will need to install the iOS app and also the client app from the Skifta site on your PC or Mac.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

When you first launch the iOS app, it'll show you a three-step process for setting up your media source and your media player in order to browse and play your media. First, select a media source by tapping on the Remote tab and signing up for a Skifta account. You'll be asked to provide a username, password, and place (place = device name). The service works over both Wi-Fi and cellular connections, but I found the service to be painfully slow when connected via 3G.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

You will need to be signed in on both your iOS device and PC/Mac for the streaming to begin. You will also need to run the Skifta software on your PC or Mac after installing it. On a Mac, click on the icon in the menubar and select Start Skifta service. Once the software is running on your computer, you should see it listed as a device on the Remote tab. Once it shows up, tap the Here tab and tap on the computer to select it as your media source.

Next, choose a player. In my experience, Skifta found my iPhone or iPad automatically. If not, select it from the list on the Here tab.

Once you have established a media source and player, tap "Browse and play media" and you'll see three folders: Music, Photo, and Video.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Before you jump into your media, you should know that Skifta is rather buggy at the moment. It crashed repeatedly on me, and the way it indexes your media is, how should I put this, less than ideal. Take music, for example. For starters, it dumped almost all of my carefully organized iTunes library into an Unknown folder instead of by album, indexing only a few dozen albums (of hundreds). And the tracks in the All Music folder are indexed in the craziest way. The tracks are ordered by track number. That is, all of the first tracks of an album are listed first, followed by the second tracks, and so on. Also, Skifta failed to pull in artist, album, and genre information and album art for most tracks, so you end up looking at something like this:

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

On the PC/Mac app, you can choose the source folder for Music, Photos, and Videos. While Skifta found the entirety of my iTunes library, it failed to recognize my iPhoto library, finding only the images I had placed in my MacBook's Pictures folder.

Streaming video with Skifta is only useful if you are a highly organized person. I am not a highly organized person and do not make the effort to rename many of my videos, so I ended up browsing lists that look like this:

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Videos I did queue up loaded quickly and played smoothly, when streaming via Wi-Fi. The pace slowed considerably when I tried via a 3G connection. You can tap on a video to play it in full-screen, but there is no way to hide Skifta's media controls.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

You won't find a back button when playing media to return to browsing. Tapping the Home button returns you to where you left off browsing, while the music-note button actually takes you to Skifta's media player, showing you what file was last played.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

In addition to streaming media from a remote device, you can also set Skifta up to stream media from a variety of Internet sources. To do so, tap the "Choose a media source" button and then tap the Channels tab. Here, you'll find a long list of online services. Some you'll need to sign into to access, such as Dropbox, Instagram, or Picasa. Others like Revision3 and Shoutcast don't require an account. To tune into one of these "channels," tap the switch to turn it on. Next, tap the Here tab and the channel should be listed with your other media sources. Tap its name to select it as a media source and then tap "Browse and play media."

I found the Channels function to be more miss than hit. Skifta crashed most often when I was trying to access various channels, and when it didn't crash, more times than not a channel I had turned on didn't show up as an option on the media sources list.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Skifta has some work to do with its iOS app, but if it does figure it out, it could be a useful tool for freeing up space on your crowded iPhone and iPad.

 

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