iPad Video Formats and Battery Life


Q: I certainly am not very computer literate (I’m old and stupid!). My two questions about my iPad may have been addressed in the Archives, but since I don’t understand most of the questions or answers in the Archives, I’m not sure.

Firstly, although I can view video in Netflix and YouTube, I cannot view video attachments in my e-mail messages (I’m told “Safari cannot download this file”), download media players such as PlayItAll media player & QuickTime player (message: Safari cannot download this file) or Adobe Flash Player (message: Flash Player not available for your device). Is there something I can do to view my e-mail attachments, view video replays of TV programs on sites such as ABC and SyFy and so forth?

I’m also wondering if it is advantageous to operate the iPad with the short cord connected to an outlet, rather than use battery power, in order to save the battery?

– Steve

A: The iPad can only run applications from the App Store, so third-party media players that would normally plug in to your web browser on a desktop computer cannot be installed on the iPad. The iPad operating system only supports a very limited set of video formats, however you can download third-party applications from the App Store such as CineXPlayer ($3, App Store link) or OPlayer that will allow you to play additional video formats.

Note that opening videos in other applications from within Safari is not supported. This means that if you’re accessing your e-mail through the web browser, you may not be able to view all types of video attachments. However, if you access your e-mail account using the built-in iPad Mail app you should be able to open video files from your e-mail messages provided a third-party application has been installed that can view videos in these formats. Supported H.264 QuickTime videos will play natively on the iPad while other formats such as DivX and WMV will need to be opened in a separate third-party application that you download and install from the App Store.

Note that there are also third-party apps on the App Store that can be used in place of the built-in Safari browser that may provide additional video format support. Notably, the Skyfire Web Browser ($5, App Store link) provides the ability to view Flash videos on the iPad by converting them on the back-end and presenting them in an iPad-compatible video format.

In answer to your second question, using the iPad from external power when possible can improve the battery life, since lithium-based rechargeable batteries have a limited number of charge cycles, after which they will no longer hold a charge as efficiently. A full drain and recharge of the battery is equivalent to a single charge cycle. If you are running the iPad from external power, you are naturally using fewer charge cycles, as the battery does not continue to charge once fully charged—the iPad shuts off the charging circuit and simply runs from external power. Just be sure to not always run the iPad from external power—it needs to go through at least one full charge cycle per month in order to keep the battery “exercised.” Note that this charge cycle doesn’t have to be a single drain-and-recharge, however—using 20% of the battery and recharging it five times would still be the equivalent of a normal charge cycle, as would using 5% of the battery and recharging it twenty times. Normal routine use of an iPad should take care of this as long as you’re not always using external power.


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Jesse Hollington

Jesse Hollington was a Senior Editor at iLounge. He's written about Apple technology for nearly a decade and had been covering the industry since the early days of iLounge. In his role at iLounge, he provided daily news coverage, wrote and edited features and reviews, and was responsible for the overall quality of the site's content.