VNC Viewer for iOS, a product of the original developer of virtual network computing technology, RealVNC, received a major update today as the company looks to keep their client competitive against apps such as Screens and LogMeIn Ignition. VNC Viewer v2.0 adds background multitasking, full-screen viewing, video output support, searching, and more to the list of features.
One of the first changes you’ll see after launching the latest version is a new search box in the top-right corner. While it isn’t likely to be used by anyone utilizing the app for convenient access to a couple of personal computers, corporate IT managers will consider the ability to find connections by name a long overdue feature that could move VNC Viewer closer to their primary remote desktop app of choice.
The second change that should be very apparent is with the remote control user interface. The toolbar has been made much less obtrusive by making it semi-transparent, trimming down the size, moving it to the top of the screen, and having it automatically hide after a moment of input inactivity.
My next feature highlight once again involves managing numerous items simultaneously. Now that VNC Viewer supports background multitasking, you can respond to an email, SMS/MMS, phone call, tweet, etc without worrying about needing to log in when resuming your remote session. VNC Viewer will maintain the connection for up to 10 minutes but, of course, you can manually disconnect before switching to another app to prevent unauthorized access to your remote computer in the event of an unapproved resume.
And we’ve arrived at the final feature introduced with v2.0: video-out. When connected to an external display via one of Apple’s AV cables or adapters, VNC Viewer transforms your iDevice from a small touch screen into a trackpad and soft keyboard with video output capability up to 1920×1080 (1080p), plus all three input options are still available: standard (full screen trackpad), mouse button mode with scroll bar and primary keys, and regular keyboard show and hide. However, that’s not the coolest part. If you have an iPhone 4S or iPad 2 and the latest generation Apple TV, you can do all of this wirelessly using iOS 5′s AirPlay video mirroring feature.
As a reminder, you’ll need VNC hosting software on computers to use VNC Viewer for iOS. RealVNC offers VNC Free Edition for basic connectivity to systems running UNIX flavors or Windows XP and older, VNC Personal Edition for users who want more capabilities and need compatibility with systems running newer versions of Windows, and VNC Enterprise Edition for consumers interested in the most features and need Mac OS X compatibility. An alternative for use with computers running newer versions of Mac OS X, you can simply enable the built-in Screen Sharing function and then log in using your Mac OS X account credentials — which I tested with primarily success on my MacBook running Mac OS 10.7.1 — but it does lack encryption and has a few glitches.
VNC Viewer is a universal app compatible with iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch running iOS 4.0 or later, and available in the App Store for $9.99.