The BBC iPlayer Android app is live right now on the Android Market for all you Auntie fans to start streaming on the go. Or not quite – you see, there are a few limitations. We’ve been testing it out today and have the breakdown for you right here in our full BBC iPlayer Android app review.
Taken of its own accord, the BBC iPlayer Android app gets the job done, and by and large it does it well. It’s a quick, free download, and once you’re in, you’re presented with a visual layout of the featured, most popular and favourite (As chosen by you) shows under both TV and radio.
On our Google Nexus S, it was buttery smooth and very fast rolling between all of these, and a small drop down tab lets you rifle through categories, by channel, as well as see an EPG of live BBC channels you can tune into – previously Android users would have to used the TVCatchup.com Flash website to stream live TV. As ever with Android, you can also search for shows by both text or voice.
Dig into the settings and you can set a parental lock for content if you don’t want your kids watching adult shows – though be aware they can skirt around that easily through the website.
More interesting is the option to change the video streaming quality: by default it’s on 500kbps, but those with HVGA screen Android phones might want to try the lower 400kbps instead (visually they don’t look all that different). What is strange however is that the high quality 800kbps stream simply wouldn’t open on our Nexus S, and actually caused it to crash or run dangerously low on memory. We’re not sure if this is meant for tablets or even more higher power phones – we’ll try it out on the LG Optimus 2X and Motorola Atrix when we get a hold of them.
Visually, on the 500kbps stream, the BBC iPlayer Android app looks just the same as when watching it through the browser: there’s the same decent framerate and on screen pause/play controls. For those worried about the space the app takes up on precious internal storage (Nexus One owners, we know your pain), the good news is the BBC iPlayer app only takes up 704KB of space, and can be moved to the SD card.
The problem is that other than the speedy interface, it brings little new. You can only watch over Wi-Fi, it only runs on Android 2.2 and up phones that support Flash and other than monitoring your favourites, everything it offers is already available through the browser.
In fact, the BBC have taken away more than they’ve given. This is no substitute for BeebPlayer, the unofficial app that tapped into the non-Flash video feed of shows to play video on even Android 1.5 phones, which it clamped down on last year.
So, a respectable start for the BBC iPlayer Android app, but we wish it hadn’t taken a Flash approach, and we’ll be much more interested if or when show downloads arrive in future updates.