News, — December 13, 2011 12:53 — 0 Comments
The hugely popular BBC catch-up app downsizes from iPad with new channel-hopping feature, but data costs (in the UK) are unknown. Would you want to watch programmes on your iPhone? Tell us what you think by commenting below
The BBC has launched a native iPhone app for its iPlayer catch-up TV service, updating the existing iPad version to run across all iOS devices. The update also introduces 3G streaming and support for Apple’s AirPlay technology.
The iPad and Android versions launched in February 2011, although iPhone and iPod touch owners have been able to access iPlayer through its mobile website. In July 2011, a global version of the iPad app was launched in 11 countries by BBC Worldwide.
The BBC says in a blog post that the UK apps have been installed on 1.5m iPads and 1.2m Android devices, while 16.5m programmes were watched on mobile devices and tablets in October 2011, up 129% year-on-year.
"We have worked closely with the network operators to introduce 3G streaming and create a great mobile experience so you can watch your favourite TV programme wherever you are or listen to the radio when you are out and about," explains David Madden, executive product manager for BBC iPlayer on mobile, in the blog post.
"3G streaming is enabled in the iPhone and iPad apps and will shortly be coming to the mobile web version of BBC iPlayer for all supported devices."
The lack of 3G streaming was a bugbear for some mobile iPlayer users, particularly as it was included in the global iPlayer app in July. According to Madden, the BBC is now using HLS – HTTP Live Streaming – for the apps, to detect the strength of viewers’ Wi-Fi or 3G connections and stream video at a suitable quality.
Madden’s mention of mobile operators is significant, as their networks will have to bear the load if millions of British iOS (and eventually Android) users start watching Eastenders on the bus. "We are aware of the launch of the BBC iPlayer app, as announced today, and we are confident that our customers will enjoy using the updated access to BBC content that it offers," an Orange spokesperson tells The Guardian.
Many smartphone owners in the UK are signed up to data plans capped at 500MB a month. There is no indication on the iPlayer’s App Store listing how much data will be consumed by watching, say, a half-hour show over 3G.
Also new in the updated app is the ability to "flick between channels" by tapping on a Live Channels button. The app also supports iOS’ background audio feature, so that people can listen to the radio while using other apps on their device.
For now, the Android iPlayer app remains Wi-Fi only when it comes to streaming, although Madden says a forthcoming update will solve this. "We have got a bit more work to do to improve the video playback experience and add 3G streaming and we will be releasing an update to the BBC iPlayer Android app in the new year," he writes.
"This is the first release of the BBC iPlayer app for iPhones and iPod touches and it will, of course, evolve and improve as we refine the interface and add features."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010