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Posted on February 14th, 2011 by Mike Jennings

Android App of the Week: BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer on AndroidThe sluggish attitude of the BBC to Android apps has meant that numerous pretenders have appeared: search for BBC in the Android Market and you’ll find dozens of tools that provide stories from the corporation’s news and sports sites, as well as a couple that provide iPlayer content unofficially.

That’s changed with the release of an official iPlayer app. It’s potentially one of the biggest apps to ever hit the market, and it’s been released simultaneously with the iPad edition.

Boot up the app and it’s immediately obvious this is something special. Featured programmes sit at the top of the screen, and scrolling down sees more fade into view smoothly. Switch your phone around and you’re able to scroll horizontally through Auntie’s top content.

Click on a show and the familiar iPlayer layout appears, with options to share the the show over any social-networking apps you’ve got installed or add it to your favourites for later viewing. Graphics illustrate the programme’s channel, duration and availability on iPlayer, and there are eight links to recommend shows at the bottom of the screen – just scroll through them horizontally and click.

The Radio tab is designed along the same lines, with the latest shows, exclusive live performances and (for older listeners) episodes of The Archers available.BBC iPlayer on Android

At the top of the app sits an unobtrusive little button that’s actually key to the iPlayer experience. Click it and you’re able to browse through numerous programme categories, from comedy and drama to sports and documentaries, as well as divide shows by their channels: all the main stations are supported alongside more obscure ones such as BBC Parliament, BBC Radio 1Xtra and BBC Radio 7.

And then there’s the live TV and radio options, which stream current content. None of iPlayer’s playback options work on 3G, but our office wireless network coped admirably, quickly streaming BBC at fine quality. While it’s not what you’d expect from the corporation’s HD channels – or, frankly, its SD broadcasting – it’s certainly watchable.

Some of the Beeb’s archived content, though, didn’t fare so well. Top at the time of writing was a David Attenborough documentary, Madagascar, which proved difficult to watch as the app kept stopping to buffer images. The latest episode of Panorama was the same. This could be down to increased launch demand peaks or a temporary glitch on our wireless network, but it’s a shame to see such an impressive app potentially scuppered by outside forces.

Official BBC apps have been a long time coming but, now the first has arrived, we’re still impressed: iPlayer mimics its desktop cousin superbly and – when your wireless connection plays ball – offers a smooth and responsive experience. It’s free and available in the Android Market right now as long as you’re running Android 2.2 or above.

Want more great Android apps? Check out our previous Android Apps of the Week or read our 36 Best Android Apps feature.

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11 Responses to “ Android App of the Week: BBC iPlayer ”

  1. Alan Robertson Says:
    February 14th, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Good review, but I’m not sure I’d be as positive! I’ve downloaded it and used it on my HTC Desire and agree the interface is pretty good, but the lack of 3G streaming, national radio stations, or any way to store content is a definite let down after this long a wait. The previous unofficial apps (BeebPlayer, etc.) did pretty much what this did, so I’m not sure what took so long! Also the BBC iD login doesn’t seem to sync between the app and the website – this would make it much more useful.

  2. Kevin Says:
    February 15th, 2011 at 5:24 am

    Did the BBC pay you to write this review?

    Read the comments in the Android Market for a far more objective view.

    Other than a nice looking UI, this app, for most people, is a complete waste of time.

    App of the Week? Don’t make me laugh.

  3. Jonathan Gray Says:
    February 15th, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Why do you need an app? I watch TV and listen to radio using the Iplayer webpage in the browser on my HTC Desire. I have no problem streaming using 3G, which as I’m on 3 is not a problem bandwidth-wise.

  4. barrada Says:
    February 15th, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Never mind the long wait for the BBC – Isn’t it time PC Pro had an Android App? Any plans for one?

  5. Ally Says:
    February 15th, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Is it just me or cannot you not even steam live radio?

  6. Steve Says:
    February 15th, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    My review of the app:
    Looks good, but doesn’t work.
    Tried it over my home wifi where I can use the standard web version of iPlayer without a problem and it couldn’t stream anything.
    It also lacks functionality that other “unofficial” versions had, such as downloads, etc…

  7. Andrew Pepper Says:
    February 15th, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    The radio is disappointing because when you turn the phone off, the sound stops – so the battery doesn’t last and you can’t put the phone in a pocket and listen to the radio on earphones.

  8. mike Says:
    February 16th, 2011 at 1:10 am

    just downloaded on desire hd. looks like a solid base to build on and add more features, normally use phone web browser to watch iplayer, but for those people with big fingers and thumbs this app has a reason,

  9. Mr Smith Says:
    March 1st, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    Pathetic effort from the BBC. Poorer performance, fewer features and works on fewer phones than an app (BeebPlayer) written by someone in his own time.

    The BBC should be truly ashamed.

  10. Ian Says:
    April 19th, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    What they said.

    Audio is not synced, and I can only get it to play for a couple of minutes before it forced closes or actually locks up the phone. Resuming watching reveals the controls to move within a programme don’t work well.

    Never have I had to reboot by removing the battery so many times due to one (cr)app.

    Uninstalled within an hour of downloading it.

    (Lowest data rate on an HTC Desire – if this won’t run it, ghod help those on lesser hardware.)

  11. Dick Says:
    June 2nd, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    Android Honeycomb Tablet Zoom
    App totally unplayable. Don’t waste time downloading.
    Just log in through your browser to the BBC iPlayer web site!


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