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May 27, 2013

Update to the new Plex for Android

It’s always tricky when a piece of software is rewritten from scratch. Even though it might be objectively better in almost every conceivable way, people get used to things being a certain way, and regardless of how big or small a change is, there will always be someone who hates the change.

With the new Plex for Android, we actually talked a lot ahead of the release about possible stress points, and we predicted there would be some blowback over the lack of a full remote (even as we worked hard to add it back). At some point, though, you go to Google Play with the app you have.

We also predicted some complaints about the requirement to have a myPlex account, but we were honestly a bit taken aback by the volume and tone of the feedback on this point. I believe we didn’t explain clearly why a myPlex account might be useful, and what information is sent up. Quick summary:

  • You can sign up with just username and email (and we don’t even verify email)!
  • The only other information we pass to myPlex from Plex for Android is a bit of device information (make, model, Android version, etc.)
  • myPlex helps make local server detection more reliable. This might sound a bit crazy, but detecting local resources on network using broadcast/multicast is fraught with peril. It is more often more reliable to have the two resources talk to a third party.
  • myPlex accounts make remote connections to Plex servers configuration-free, without a need for DynDNS or other such services. (Before you beard out on me, remember that most people don’t want to set up a VPN, or remember and type in an IP address.)
  • myPlex doesn’t see what media you’re playing, or know what’s in your library. It helps Plex app A locate Plex server B, and then the two talk directly.
  • myPlex is required for PlexSync.
  • myPlex is used to send native device notifications to iOS, Android, and (soon) Windows 8 devices. These notifications are currently used for friend invites, media recommendations, and PlexSync.
  • You can queue web videos up to watch later with a myPlex account.
  • You can share your media with other myPlex account-holders.
  • In the future, we’ll be using myPlex for other awesome, cool, neat, amazing things.
So as you can see, there’s nothing really evil going on here. But we understand, some people will always view an online account as a bad thing, and there’s not much we can do about that.
Last, but not least, there was a lot of highly negative feedback over the location permissions that were added. Obviously, we must be tracking where you are so that we can report your location directly to the MPAA, right (as one review accused us). In reality, those permissions aren’t being used for anything at the moment. How silly is that? We added them when we started working on the new Plex for Android, mostly because it seemed cool, but also because we were considering adding a feature where you’d be able to see where people were who were streaming from your server (e.g. Professor Plum in the Library with a Candlestick).

A review from the new version:

2013 05 27 at 12 45 06 AM

Needless to say, he only gave us a single star, and presumably because zero stars wasn’t an option. John (and others similarly annoyed by this update): We will work tirelessly to make sure the new Plex for Android works well. There is a lot to love about this new version, if you give it a chance. Promise.

In that vein, we’ve pushed a quick update to Google Play with the following changes:

  • NEW: Removed myPlex sign in as a requirement for the non-PlexPass version.
  • NEW: A first working version of the Remote Control Widget.
  • FIX: Remove (completely unused) location permissions.
  • FIX: Recommendations for episode and movie online content.

And yes, you can haz a Barkley.


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