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Android: An update

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Dave Price Dave Price | 18:00 UK time, Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The BBC launched the BBC Media Player for Android nearly three months ago. Since then it has been downloaded to more than one million Android phones and tablets.

In this short period of time we've witnessed a dramatic change in the Android platform and in BBC usage on the platform.

When we launched, seven inch Android tablets weren't driving significant usage. Fast forward three months and the Kindle Fire HD and the Nexus 7 are now both firmly in the top five Android devices for BBC iPlayer and the BBC Media Player.

The Android platform is extremely important to the BBC and our audience and engineering for it requires an ongoing commitment.

To that end I have a significant engineering team working on both the Android media playback experience and BBC iPlayer application on Android devices.

Strictly Come Dancing frame from old video encode and frame from new improved video encode

We have three goals:

1. Improve the playback experience.
2. Achieve feature parity between iOS and Android.
3. Support a variety of screen sizes.

We're not going to get there overnight, however starting before Christmas and continuing over the coming months we have a series of releases that will make the BBC iPlayer experience on Android devices more appealing and engaging.

Improving the playback experience

Android as a platform is becoming increasingly complex and fragmented with a huge difference between video playback capabilities across the 1500+ Android devices.

Rather than use the one-size-fits-all approach that has worked on iOS we are grouping Android devices into classifications based on their capabilities.

For example, for devices which don't support advanced video playback we will have to deliver lower quality video streams.

For devices with bigger screens and capable of advanced playback we'll enable high quality video encodes along the lines of those on iOS devices.

Since we can't rely on adaptive bitrate yet we aim to start at a higher quality encode for larger screens and a lower quality encode for smaller ones.

We will also take network into consideration so we'll start with higher quality on WiFi and 4G networks and lower quality over 3G.

These improvements start before Christmas with a new high quality media encode when using WiFi.

There is still plenty of work ongoing and we'll be releasing further updates throughout 2013 as we deliver on the rest of this ambition.

Achieving feature parity between iOS and Android

Thus far we've found ourselves releasing products first on iOS because of the challenges of supporting a variety of Android platform versions and devices.

Of course we want to deliver products simultaneously on iOS and Android and we are striving to fill gaps such as mobile downloads and launching iPlayer Radio on Android. This will take time.

First and foremost we'll focus on video quality but rest assured we're working on filling gaps in feature and product parity at the same time.

Since the fragmentation on Android requires more work than a single implementation on iOS we've also made investments in engineering so Android and iOS can deliver at broadly the same pace.

The upcoming BBC iPlayer release on Android introduces an updated UI that provides the foundations for the team to build future features.

In addition you'll find you can now listen to radio shows in the iPlayer app with your screen turned off while answering email or using other applications on your Android device.

Supporting a breadth of devices

Providing support across all Android devices is complex due to the variety of devices, operating system versions and screen sizes.

Before Christmas we're going to enable iPlayer on Jellybean 4.2 and offer a richer tablet experience on devices such as the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD.

Thereafter--with Adobe and Google's help--we'll improve playback on devices like the Sony Xperia Arc.

Into 2013 we'll prioritise the most popular Android devices so we can deliver the best experience for the biggest audience. As you can see this is just the beginning.

I hope the upcoming pre-Christmas releases make opening new presents and using existing Android devices more pleasurable. The experience will continue to get even better as we move into the new year.

Dave Price is the Head of BBC iPlayer, Programmes and On Demand, BBC Future Media.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Hello!

    a little advice on the whole 'fragmentation' thing

    Eclair and upwards - lets call it 'android low' standard resolution - 800x480 pixles
    Ice Cream Sandwich+ phones with HLS - 800x480 - max 1280x720p*
    Honeycomb+ tablets with HLS 1280x800 except for Nexus 10 - which will be 1280x1080

    sorted.
    *Nexus 7 phone resolution - the one that's £289 and is selling like hotcakes *hint hint*

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    Ref. comment no. 1: The Nexus 7's screen resolution is actually 1280x800, oddly. And it's not a phone, it's a phablet. :)

  • Comment number 4.

    Why has the latest update to the BBC News Android app made it incompatible with my Nexus 7 running Jelly Bean 4.2.1 when it was compatible before the update, but the app is compatible with my Samsung Galaxy Nexus also running Jelly Bean 4.2.1. As a Licence Fee payer this is not good enough; get it sorted and quickly.

  • Comment number 5.

    Glad you are working on improving the streaming quality on android, and I'm hoping feature parity means you are working on adding downloads to android. Wondering if you are working on adding BBC iD, in order to sync favourites with the website, to the mobile apps?

  • Comment number 6.

    "we aim to start at a higher quality encode for larger screens and a lower quality encode for smaller ones."
    What do you class as larger screens. My Nexus 4 with a 4.7" 720p screen is more powerfuil than my 7" Nexus 7 but will it only be limited to lower quality playback ? Will I be able to switch between high and low quality?

  • Comment number 7.

    "Since we can't rely on adaptive bitrate yet we aim to start at a higher quality encode for larger screens and a lower quality encode for smaller ones."

    Why not be forward facing and restrict new engineering effort to a minimum of post-Honeycomb devices so you do have access to those APIs as well as a native way to implement DRM? Then you can freeze the development/featureset of the current AIR-based app and restrict its availability to Gingerbread and below via Google Plays multiple APK functionality.

    While your goal of having one universal app which also runs on old 2.x versions is commendable, it seems to be doing little more than diminishing the experience for more modern devices (which probably have the highest consumption rate of the app) since the Adobe Air framework imposes its own limitations. From your comments in the blog post it doesn't seem to be reducing costs either.

    I'd also question the premise that AIR has universal reach in the first place, since it isn't compatible with non-ARM processor architectures so brand new ICS devices with Intel CPUs like the RAZR i aren't supported.

    When the Flash-based iPlayer first launched it required 2.2 and up despite many handsets at the time being unable to run it, so your reluctance to set a Honeycomb/Ice Cream sandwich minimum is a bit of a head scratcher.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi I have just purchased my Google nexus 7 and updated to jellybean as requested by the start up process. However I have gone to the play store to install `bbc media player and am informed - "your device isn't compatible with this version". Am I doing something wrong or can I not watch/listen to BBC on my nexus 7? Thanks

  • Comment number 9.

    Fully agree with comment #7 - focus on the present and future of the platform, not the past and make use of all the excellent new functionality on offer.

  • Comment number 10.

    You really need to give up support for Android devices running Gingerbread or lower. Look at Google's own statistics; Gingerbread is dying. Why are you committing resources to Gingerbread? iPlayer in it's current form works fine on 2.3 devices, and using Google Play's Multi-APK feature, you could have one Play Store listing that caters to them as well as a new and improved 'holo' app for 4.0 and above devices. The BBC have always been one step behind on Android. This blog post doesn't seem to be changing that. You need to be more forward-thinking in your approaches. No devices being made today run 2.3. You could make an incredible app with 4.0+ compatibility and know full well that it would be high-quality and well-received.

    While these improvements and feature-parity with iOS are nice, I still feel like you're needlessly slowing down your own progress by continually supporting outdated software. And, really, if you're not ditching AIR/Flash at this point then I have to ask why are you bothering at all; you'll never be out of the rut you've placed yourselves in by sticking with *yet another* outdated, dying technology.

    I really hope you're reading these comments and taking them to heart.

  • Comment number 11.

    @#3 OK meant to put a 4 - big mahoosive derp. I wonder if you get an edit post button using Safari....

  • Comment number 12.

    Ironic that yesterday's version 2.0 release of the Android BBC News app (which works fine on my Galaxy S3 ICS and my Asus TF700 JB 4.1.1) is incompatible with my Nexus 7 on JB 4.2.1 .

  • Comment number 13.

    Still using Adobe Air? Sheesh. Get over it. Have you not seen the reviews for the BBC media player on android market? It's a disaster. Totally unreliable. Others manage to serve android no problem. Why not BBC? Somebody in yer senior management team have shares in Adobe?

  • Comment number 14.

    The irony of claiming that the BBC are determined to improve the quality of Android apps and that the Nexus 7 is one of the top devices you're seeing on the same day that you remove support for the Nexus 7 from the BBC News app is breathtaking.

    Has your app development team considered a career in comedy ?

  • Comment number 15.

    I really wish you'd bin AIR. No app I have that runs on AIR is smooth or fast. I understand the issues of fragmentation but plenty of very small companies are managing it.

  • Comment number 16.

    I agree with comments #7 and #10. Whilst I applaud that the BBC are taking Android seriously, I can't help but dislike your approach. I have always considered the BBC to be at the cutting edge of technology. But with Android, you are choosing to be hindered by legacy platforms, resulting in a mediocre experience for all.

    Please have multiple APKs and ditch use of AIR/Flash for newer version of Android where it isn't needed. Support older versions of Android, of course, but they are already supported with what's available. Draw a line in the sand, and start afresh for modern Android. This will allow you to innovate and push boundaries - like you do so well with iOS - without being hindered by legacy platforms.

  • Comment number 17.

    please move quickly to support android properly and achieve parity with iOS. and allow us to choose which streams to use like the desktop version of YouTube.

  • Comment number 18.

    @15 Tim:
    Perversely, the use of Air and Flash make the "fragmentation" problem worse. The native Android API handles the differences between devices quite elegantly, Air and Flash do not.

    Essentially the "fragmentation" problem is one of the BBC's (and, incidentally, ITV's with their atrocious AIR based ITV Player) making because of their use of Flash/AIR.

    As other's have pointed out, other vendors have no major issues with "fragmentation" (Netflix, TED, YouTube, etc). In two years the BBC have not produced an Android iPlayer client that is remotely fit for purpose (after, incidentally, killing off two 3rd party apps that were). Let us hope they have finally seen the light and they get it right this time round.

  • Comment number 19.

    Will you be using Http Live Streaming (HLS) on Android Honeycomb and above?

  • Comment number 20.

    One question:

    Why have you not redeployed the existing iPlayer app for Android 4.2? It clearly works on 4.2 devices if already installed before updating to 4.2 or if installed by "sideloading", but cannot be installed from Google Play because it has its maxSdkVersion set at 4.1.

  • Comment number 21.

    I cannot believe the irony of this blog post considering you've now removed access to the bbc news app and bbc iplayer app on a nexus 7 with 4.2.

    I say this with some shock, but even sky (who up until now were even more useless) now have their sky go app working on n7 4.2.

    Both the iplayer and new news app work perfectly when sideloaded so why these stupid arbitrary restrictions?!

    Disgraceful.

  • Comment number 22.

    Can we take this blog post to mean that you intend use native video (possible HTTP Live Streaming, as suggested in comment 19) on more recent devices? (possibly those running 3.0 or 4.0 and later)

    On a very tangentially related note - any plans to live stream BBC radio stations (including local radio) in (a) more accessible format(s) (e.g. the likes of Shoutcast/Icecast) ? Flash is perfectly fine for listening in a desktop browser but pretty useless for software like XBMC and various embedded devices - the only current alternative, mono WMA, isn't very universal nor high in quality. Surely this would make Android and iOS development easier as those platforms support playing such streams natively.

  • Comment number 23.

    Thanks for the comments so far.

    First off, good news, we’ve just published updates to BBC iPlayer and the BBC Media Player applications, these should be available in Google Play later today. For Kindle Fire HD users we will update the blog post when the new releases are available on your device.

    BBC News application availability on Jellybean 4.2
    The Nexus 7 has a non-standard screen density so accidentally got left out of our release. We've resubmitted the app and it should now be available for your device. Apologies for the inconvenience.

    @Andrew Meikle
    As we move into 2013 we are certainly looking at how we make the BBC iPlayer experiences across devices more coherent and connected. We’ll keep you posted on this blog.

    @Richard Marklew
    Nexus 4 is supported in the new application updates. You will be pleased to hear, this device receives the highest video encode available. Furthermore, as suggested, it is still possible, through the settings, to switch between low, medium and high profiles.

    @Icono @Alan Roberston @Danny @djeley @Eponymous Cowherd
    As I mentioned in the blog post, we are certainly looking to improve the experience for the most popular Android devices, and are focusing future engineering effort on these. Whilst it might be tempting to focus solely on Jellybean, the BBC continues to see more than 70% of all iPlayer usage coming from older Android devices that have lower media capabilities. Today, our release aims to introduce playback improvements across the board for Android devices.

    @hmartinez1
    BBC iPlayer and BBC Media Player have both been updated to support your device. However, these updates will take different amounts of time to roll out across the Google Play servers. If you wait a while and try again, you should find that BBC Media Player will be available for your device.

    @fpd
    This is a feature, among many others, that we are certainly considering in the absence of an immediate adaptive bitrate solution.

  • Comment number 24.

    Great to see some progress. The most frustrating thing about the iPlayer app on Android in recent months has been seeing the explosion of tablet use that you mention, and having little or no news about when the (frankly sub-standard) stopgap solution would be superseded. Good to know it is being actively worked on.

  • Comment number 25.

    Thanks for today's update, going in the right direction!
    I'm just providing some technical feedback, please let me know if there is a better place for this.

    I'm using a Samsung Galaxy S2 with 4.0.4, and:
    - there is no pause button on lock screen as advertised
    - audio stutters when locking and unlocking (it doesn't happen in other audio apps)
    - design-wise, I don't understand why selecting an audio programme forces rotation of the screen to landscape: shouldn't this only happen when playing video? it's annoying when one just wants to press play/pause and continue using the phone for other purposes.
    Thanks

  • Comment number 26.

    The YouTube app manages to handle all these different devices and their screen sizes and few others go on about fragmentation quite as much as you, tiny one-person developers can handle it but not the BBC developers it seems. You've had many years to figure it out but it's still beyond you. Meanwhile you pull that "other vendors are available" stunt for all products bar the iphone and ipad which you still refer to regularly on TV, radio and websites as if they were the only choice. Most of your android effort seems to go into excuse generation and chasing people who write apps that make yours look bad. Also remember that many android phones can connect to televisions so if you ever do improve things, don't force devices to low resolution feeds as they might be driving a large TV. All my video viewing happens via a Galaxy Note 2 over a wireless feed to my To for example.

  • Comment number 27.

    Why have the favourites function been removed. This is a backward step. Apart from that, I am happy with the update.

  • Comment number 28.

    Well done on today's release of the iPlayer+MediaPlayer combination, and thanks!

    You've improved things dramatically. A few observations on my two devices (Nexus 7 JB 4.2.1, Asus TF700 JB 4.1.1, both with Flash sideloaded)

    On the Nexus 7, the iPlayer app runs natively and I get live streams. Over wifi I get an HD stream that is really smooth.

    But on an HSPA connection (Giffgaff) I get a dreadful, completely unwatchable lowest-possible def stream. That's ironic because I have a dire 1Mbit/s link from my ISP and the HSPA link is faster.

    Now, I know that HSPA on that device can do it, because the new BBC News app's live stream on HSPA comes over in HD and is really smooth. So I guess you're making way too low an estimation of what the link will support just because it's a 3G data connection. Maybe give me a UI that will let me select the quality here?

    Radio works too, although Radio 3 volume is very very low.

    But this is a *big* improvement. Keep it up!

    On the Asus TF700 - well, you can't win 'em all, I guess. You don't seem to know what to do with this device. The iPlayer app *still* does nothing but launch the default browser (Dolphin) to go to the iPlayer website. I *still* have to reconfigure it to be in awful Android mobile mode instead of sensible desktop mode. And I don't get any live streams or anything nice.

    So the rating is "improving, but can do better". Give me a proper iPlayer app on my HD 10 inch TF700 tablet and I'll be smiling. Give me a decent stream over HSPA and I'll think you really do mean to support Android as well as you do Apple.

  • Comment number 29.

    I'm in agreement with several previous comments that you need to split your android offering into the Air version for older devices with minimal further development, and build a new native app for ICS (4.0) and above. Also you should never set a maximum OS version on the apps in Play store unless you discover really serious issues, users with using the latest Android version should not have to wait weeks or months for you to eventually approve the app for that version.

    Finally I would like to see the apps offered for download directly from the BBC website for sideloading as well as in the Play store. This would allow it to be used on Android devices that don't have the Google Apps, and also help with the issue of the Play store app not permitting some Channel Islands viewers from installing/updating them.

  • Comment number 30.

    Piggy-backing Alan Phillips' comments regarding his Asus device, I too have an Asus tablet, the TF201 and also suffer the same limitations. Please fix it! I get a better experience on my tiny Gingerbread-based Motorola Defy, for heaven's sake!

    Becoming a real drag now :-(

  • Comment number 31.

    Regarding the latest update.

    Now works quite well on the Nexus 7 (Jellybean 4.2), the sound is now synchronised with the picture and actually stays synchronised if you skip forward/back. Video quality still leaves quite a lot to be desired, mostly quite good but goes through frequent phases where it is no more than a blurry mess. Still, better than the previous version where it was a blurry mess most of the time. Also managed to play a whole 1 hour programme without crashing, which is a first.

    Now the bad news. No longer works at all on my HTC Sensation (ICS 4.0.3). Just get the still "intro" picture and a permanent pink wait "spinner" whatever I try to play anything.

  • Comment number 32.

    Why has the favourites been removed? Other then that the update seems okay, but that really is a backwards step in functionality for no clear reason.

  • Comment number 33.

    no longer works at all on my galaxy s2 running stock ics 4.0.4. just a black screen when trying to play any content.

  • Comment number 34.

    Further issues found with the 1.5 version and Samsung galaxy tab 2

    1. If I press back button on a radio program - it doesn't stop playing. It carries on even if I tell Andrioid to stop the app. On previous version pressing back would end the program.

    2. Fullscreen video isn't fullscreen any more. There seems to be an extra black boundary on the right hand side and bottom of the screen. On previous version fullscreen video correctly filled the available screen.

    All in all quite a serious amount of regression in this "update"

  • Comment number 35.

    works after uninstalling and reinstalling bbc media player

  • Comment number 36.

    @Tucker61 @Ian Smith
    The team focused on shipping an Android release with improved playback prior to Christmas. And, it appears from the initial feedback, that the higher quality media has been appreciated. I can confirm the favourites feature will return in a future upgrade in the new year.

    @Eponymous Cowherd
    Nice to receive your positive Nexus 7 feedback :-) We’re investigating the issue you raise on your HTC device.

  • Comment number 37.

    On my nexus 10, the "improved" Iplayer app is.. a link to the website?? The moment I start the app it quits and fires up a new tab in Chrome. What an improvement :-\

  • Comment number 38.

    The latest iPlayer version 1.5.0.666 dated 13 December still doesn't work correctly on a Motorola Xoom 10.1" running standard Jelly Bean 4.1.2. Selecting the iPlayer app simply ivokes a shortcut to the browser with the bbc mobile site; not all of the features are available.

    For some reason although the iPlayer app works correctly on a Nexus 7 tablet on 10.1" tablets it simply operates as a shortcut rather than running the native iPlayer app. Other people have reported similar problems using the iPlayer app on other 10" tablets including those with earlier versions of Android.

    Is this problem recognized by the development team and is it likely to be fixed?

  • Comment number 39.

    I write both iOS and Android apps, and I have far more issues with fragmentation on iOs than on Android. Android was built to handle multiple device specs, with the ability to smoothly stretch the UI and have different layouts for different screen dimensions with common back end logic for them all. By contrast, with iOS you must write pretty much different apps for iPad and iPhone, you need to have different layouts for iOS6, you can't use the latest apis if you need to support phones like the 3G which are still widely used, but which can't upgrade to anywhere near the latest version of iOS. IMHO, developers who complain about Android fragmentation are generally iOS developers who don't understand the way Android is designed from the ground up to support different devices seamlessly. And if you code everything in Adobe Air, that's pretty indicative of being unwilling to understand Android - it's hiding behind a toolkit instead of actually coding for the system.

    My suggestion is to hire some native Android developers.

  • Comment number 40.

    @39 angrymartin:

    That is my experience too. Android is designed to run on devices with different screen sizes and specifications and handles these differences. AIR and Flash do not.

    I think the use of Flash has two drivers. One is content protection, the other is an attempt to produce a one-size-fits-all solution. Neither was successful.

  • Comment number 41.

    I have the brand new Motorola Razr I running on an Intel Chip and Android 4.0.4 Ipplayer "isn't compatible with this phone". Please can you explain to those with Intel chip phones when you plan to resolve this, because all the other video apps work (e.g. YouTube, TED etc).

  • Comment number 42.

    Just links to browser on Samsung galaxy tab 8.9.
    Loads slowly on Motorola Defy phone good quality picture but sound out of sync.

  • Comment number 43.

    Cant install BBC Media player on Samsung Galaxy Ace

  • Comment number 44.

    Very disappointed recently, whatever you have changed, I cannot watch news bulletins on your.main website on my Samsung Galaxy S2. The BBC Android app is limited.

  • Comment number 45.

    On my Samsung Galaxy s2 when I go to this web page the area where the video is now
    is blank. Please help. I was able to view this last week.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/hi/northern_ireland/newsid_9777000/9777315.stm

  • Comment number 46.

    Perhaps the BBC team needs to take a leaf from Facebook; encourage more staff to use Android phones/tablets so that can experience first hand how different the apps are to the iOS.

  • Comment number 47.

    Here is a totally RADICAL idea. Why not treat people like DUMMIES and try to filter out the high end devices, thereby adding to the frustration of those WITH high end devices that cannot and will not be able to view streams within their devices capabilities.

    You are making a rod for your own backs, simply because you think you can determine all the devices that will work well. Well you CAN'T. There are more high powered Android devices coming out every day, and you will be depriving the people that have these devices by NEVER allowing them the ability to view the quality available.

    So what is the answer? Allow people to change the settings themselves! How radical an idea is that!

    There is a reason that programs have settings, why Android has preferences. How many IT staff did it take to decide to try frustrate the user base, rather than setting everything initially to a lower quality and allow the user to change the settings to see if their device can cope with it. You might even set it up to provide feedback to your back-end systems on the devices you are unaware of that function correctly, allowing you to automatically set the right quality settings for future installs on those devices.

    There is the ability to tell what device the iPlayer is installed on at first run, IF YOU MUST you can then change the initial quality settings automatically if you like. If the facility is there why not use it properly.

    Just don't think you can lock out a number of more than capable devices until YOU can test them for all quality levels, as oppose to letting the user change the settings with a help process to guide them IF necessary.

    Rant over.

  • Comment number 48.

    I'm pleased to see the improvements, even if the blog post reads like an Apple PR guy wrote it - how many times does "fragmentation" appear.

    "Thus far we've found ourselves releasing products first on iOS because of the challenges of supporting a variety of Android platform versions and devices." - that's just a management decision. Solve the challenges of Android before starting on iOS ? Hold release of iOS until Android is ready ? Resource accordingly so the two take the same time ?

  • Comment number 49.

    What about Windows Phone? Surely there must be some plans to sort something for WP8 if you're working on the (now pretty much dead) older Android versions?

  • Comment number 50.

    @49 LiamH

    I will be pretty annoyed if the BBC do produce an iPlayer client for Windows Phone. Not because it would be a bad thing, it certainly wouldn't, but because it would have to be a native application because Flash and Air are not available on Windows Phone (8 or 7).

    We poor Android users were told that Flash was the only way of giving us iPlayer (despite the fact that that rule does not apply to Apple users), so have had to put up with over two years of the lousiest media app you can possibly imagine.

    If the BBC now decide that it has to be Air, unless you have an iOS or Windows Phone, then I am going to be mightily annoyed.

  • Comment number 51.

    Please don't let your quest for iOS-Android parity hamper the development and future features of the iOS app.

  • Comment number 52.

    I'm baffled by your choice of images to illustrate the quality of the apps: are those yellow marks falling confetti, or some terrible digital interference? Either way, it seems a very poor choice for an example of a supposed improvement in quality.

  • Comment number 53.

    It's confetti, and it seems like a good choice, that sort of thing (or moving water, or flocks of birds) are a nightmare for the encoders, so they really show up the differences. A simple static landscape shot would certainly look better in both versions, but you need something challenging to illustrate the difference between the two.

  • Comment number 54.

    Incompatible with Galaxy Nexus running 4.2 Jelly Bean!? Honestly.....

  • Comment number 55.

    Any news on the 10" tablets which redirect to the website. My Asus Transfromer 300 does this too.

  • Comment number 56.

    Same experience as ginnerchris on my Nexus 10. Then I'm asked to request the desktop site. Er, which is based on Flash.

  • Comment number 57.

    As has been pointed out several times there was a free independent android app called MyPlayer, released two years ago, that played iPlayer content using the iOS stream not flash and it worked perfectly on low spec devices then. The problems BBC are having are to do with their obsession with DRM implementation and not technical issues with android performance.

  • Comment number 58.

    @57 Kyorei:

    Actually it is both. The obsession with DRM and content protection has led them down the Flash path. It is the use of this 3rd party API (instead of the native Android API) that has caused the "technical issues".

    As you rightly point out, MyPlayer (and BeebPlayer) worked perfectly well on low end devices using existing iPlayer streams. MyPlayer even offered downloads!!

    The fact that a decent implementation of an Android iPlayer client has been produced (so it can be done), by a small developer (so doesn't take huge resources) over two years ago show up what are, in my opinion, the blatant untruths and misdirection in this interview between Daniel Danker and Rory Cellen Jones:-

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20754182

    Don't read it if there is anything breakable nearby.

  • Comment number 59.

    Given the level of complaint here I thought I should chime in with a thank-you for the BBC iPlayer team. At least there is forward progress being made with the client and I know the BBC is sincere in wanting to support the platform.

    I still think the Beeb should give some thought to a native app. As has been pointed out further up because of the diversity of the platform (a much less pejorative term compared to fragmentation) the native APIs are designed with this in mind. Perhaps once the BBC is happy Android presents a capable enough API they can relegate the Air solution to older handsets and a native solution going forward.

    Android certainly won't be disappearing any time soon so it will be worth building up the capability to develop natively for it in the BBC itself.

  • Comment number 60.

    @58 And its your view that DRM is unnecessary which appears to lead you to your conclusions. The 'decent' implementation did not implement DRM and therefore did not meet the obligations the BBC have to some rights owners.

  • Comment number 61.

    Glad to see Android getting some love from BBC iPlayer!

    One of the various reasons that I got an iPad mini rather than the Nexus 7 is because of the much better iPlayer experience - the ability to download episodes for offline viewing is particularly useful for me. I wonder how much Android iPlayer usage will go up with a better app experience?

    I can't wait to be able to listen to iPlayer radio on my phone. With the screen kept on, it is simply unusable while on the go because of the battery drain. No other radio, podcast or music app I have come across has had any problem with playing audio in the background, including ones that stream BBC radio. It seems to me utterly bizarre that the BBC was unable to get this working for so long. Some shows can be downloaded as podcasts, but there's lots of iPlayer material not available in this way.

    In terms of video quality, on my HTC One X, I watch iPlayer in HD via the desktop site - it streams just fine on Three with HDSPA+ and unlimited data. But navigating the desktop version on my phone is a bit of a fiddle, and it would be great if it could be supported in the app.

    The best way to handle different levels of quality would be to allow the user to select it themselves. Give users the option of using whatever resolutions their screen is capable of handling, up to and including 720 HD. By default, use lower quality streams when using mobile data, but have the option to use high quality streams on 3G for those on unlimited data.

    In terms of supporting older devices, the BBC should make sure that iPlayer remains accessible to users on Gingerbread, for example. But where technical limitations make it impossible to bring certain improvements to older systems, that shouldn't stop it from improving quality and adding features for newer phones - one third of Android users are on Ice Cream Sandwich or higher, and that's only going to grow as new users get Android and existing users upgrade. Android allows for the seamless distribution of different APKs to devices depending on version, so there's no reason that the BBC can't keep the current version of iPlayer available to older devices while offering enhancements on newer devices.

  • Comment number 62.

    "70% of all iPlayer usage coming from older Android devices that have lower media capabilities" and have you considered the possibility that that's because those with newer devices either cant or wont use the app? I have a Galaxy Nexus running 4.2, using iplayer through the browser works better for me and my experience of using the app has been so poor that I dont bother.

    Similarly to others i used to use MyPlayer so am looking forward to the promise from you guys of something I could do two years ago - download at home over wifi and watch offline. I'd much rather use a funcional iPlayer app than download a torrent, but guess what I tend to do? People will find a way to watch the great stuff the BBC produce, and maybe those at the cutting edge of Android are more skilled in circumnavigating those who do a bad job of getting content to us.

  • Comment number 63.

    @60 DBOne

    It is my view that DRM that does not work is pointless (The BBC's DRM is broken and easily circumvented).

    It is my view that there is no point in trying to protect something that is already in the public domain. (BBC programmes are broadcast in the clear on Freeview and Freesat).

    It is my view that any system of DRM / Content protection that provides end users with a worse experience than they can obtain by using unauthorised sources is not only pointless, it is actually counter-productive. It encourages people to use the "pirates" for their content instead of legitimate sources.

    There is only one way to beat the pirates, and that is to offer a better service than they do. At the moment the music, movie and TV industries are singularly failing in this requirement.

    The problem with the media industries is they see their customers, each and every one of them, as potential, or actual, pirates. Unsurprisingly a lot of people come to the conclusion that you may as well behave as you have been tarred. If you call me "pirate" I may as well be one.

    The bottom line is that DRM / content protection is a failed concept. It alienates legitimate customers / users and provides work for the Pirates whom the disenfranchised turn to when they cannot get a legitimate copy for their device or in their region.

  • Comment number 64.

    Yes, the best way to stop "piracy" is not DRM, which can almost always be circumvented by those determined enough, but to offer a legitimate way for people to watch stuff that's as easy to use, high quality and fairly priced (in the Beeb's case, free to license fee payers). Hard-core pirates are a minority. Most of those who turn to piracy do so because they think it's more convenient than legitimate channels. If you offer a better service, then the vast majority of people simply won't bother pirating.

  • Comment number 65.

    I have today recd an email from BBC advising that the iplayer has been updated and I should try to reload it to my phone. My phone thinks it is an HTC Sensation XL with a 4" screen running Android 4.0.1. Yes I can now load iplayer on to the phone, it opens up everything as one would expect until I try to play a chosen programme, then I get the message " you need to load BBC Media Player". When I try to load media player I get the message " your phone is not compatible" where do I or perhaps the BBC go from here. What more do I need to get iplayer? I still do not want and iphone. Come on BBC go to the developers you closed down and ask them if you can use their programmes, then everyone with nearly every version of Andriod can watch BBC You can get rid of your programmes who do not seem to have Android capability and save a lot of money at the same time, I am getting browned off trying to get what I already pay for, on my smartphone that will play HD films

  • Comment number 66.

    @63 DRM is not a failed concept - ask Netflix. The BBC broadcast in the clear to allow viewers to make personal copies of transmitted programmes - a legal requirement of their license. The fact they are in public domain does not give you rights to do what you like with your recording.

    Good DRM does not alienate customers - it means those that are permitted, in this case, to view programmes without those have not paid or are not entitled doing so. If the BBC got their DRM right no one would really care. The issue would appear to be that at present they are not able to do this well enough.

  • Comment number 67.

    @66 Caleb Woodbridge:

    Indeed, but "they" seem more interested in Persecuting nine year old kids than giving their customers what they want.

  • Comment number 68.

    @DBOne The BBC's attempt at DRM with android IS very clearly a failed concept but it's nice to know my license fee at least makes the iOS folks happy.

    Is it unreasonable to ask for access to high quality video? It was technically possible over two years ago on my much older android phone. It's the BBC's inability to mix DRM with android and the trusting way they do so with iOS that gets my goat. Let's be fair to all parties.

  • Comment number 69.

    I should add my comments re iOS are not in response to you db1 but to the current iPlayer implementation.

  • Comment number 70.

    Hi everyone. Some of these comments are drifting off topic - please keep discussion to the subject of this post only.

    Thanks

    Eliza Kessler
    content producer
    Internet blog

  • Comment number 71.

    Could you be a bit more specific about what you think is off-topic and why?

    Because I suspect you actually mean "Some of these comments are a bit close to the bone, please stop talking about why the BBC's bad performance is bad, it makes us look bad."

  • Comment number 72.

    @ Dave Price - I have an Intel San Diego and still cannot use iPlayer on it as the BBC Media Player returns an error " Package file is invalid" when trying to instal. Is it me? or is my phone just not compatible with iPlayer? will it ever be?

  • Comment number 73.

    @ChrisBarry:

    The fact that you can even attempt to install it suggests a deployment error on the part of the BBC. Media Player is not compatible with your phone, so shouldn't appear on Play when you browse it. Because iPlayer is wholly dependent on Media Player, that, too, should not be installable for your phone.

    As to whether iPlayer will ever be available on your phone? That is a question the BBC will need to answer. The same question has been asked several times before by Intel phone owners, but has, to my knowledge, never been answered.

    If I had to guess, I'd have to say that it is very unlikely that iPlayer will ever be available for your device until/unless the BBC move away from the embedded implementation of Adobe Air used in Media Player. It is only available for ARMv7 (which is why you get "invalid package") and that is unlikely to change.

  • Comment number 74.

    Why am I unable to download Media Player (and therefore not watch iplayer) to either of my tablets: Asus Transformer 101 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 because "This item is not available in your country"? I previously had no problems with my Asus tablet and I currently have no problems with my Samsung Galaxy SII mobile

  • Comment number 75.

    A few days ago I was able to use iPlayer on my Android ICS tablet after unsetting Remote Desktop Site. Today I am not able to use it as the website says that that I should clear it. This is nonsense as the option is currently cleared.

  • Comment number 76.

    I run Android 4.2.1 on a Nexus 10. The iPlayer App simply loads my Firefox browser to a BBC iPlayer web site that says my device is not supported. If I check the setting in the browser to load the desktop site and refresh the page I can run iplayer. Well I can load a browser and this page and do this anyway without the App so what is the point of the App

  • Comment number 77.

    Would you work harder to support Android workflow into your apps - opening URL intents for the BBC site ‐ if i’m browsing iPlayer on my desktop and send the link to my phone/tablet (Chrome/Firefox to Phone extensions), i’d like it to open in iplayer on my device. Same applies if i’m browsing in the phones browser, links should ask to open in iplayer with a set as default…

  • Comment number 78.

    Running the media player on a galaxy note 10.1 with ics. It worked perfectly until a couple of days ago. Now the iplayer runs in chrome and in the pre installed browser, but there is no sound on any radio programme. I've tried uninstalling and reinstalling, as well as turning the tablet on and off, but nothing. Is this a known media player fault? A result of an upgrade perhaps?

  • Comment number 79.

    Galaxy Tab2 10.1 straight out of christmas wrapping paper. Whenever I try BBC IPlayer it says
    'Please switch to a wi-fi connection to play this programme.' I've installed Media Player, Adobe Air etc etc.
    Galaxy S2 and laptop both connect via wi-fi ok.
    Any advice, or should I throw it in the recycle bin and purchase an IPad?
    Is there a date known when this device will be compatible?

  • Comment number 80.

    It also seems odd that this is the best place that I could post a problem with iPlayer. I've also posted on the BBC iPlayer app on Google Play Store's site.

  • Comment number 81.

    just got a samsung galaxy s wifi 5.0,as i read you could use it for iplayer,tried downloading it from google store,but because i live in the isle of man,i get told not available in my country.i pay for a licsense and this app is ment to be free,why are you not letting your customers in the isle of man have iplayer on their devices?i think i,ve heard about this problem before,so why has it not been sorted?why can you not get this app via the bbc website?

  • Comment number 82.

    ________________________

    >>Quote from post 14 December above ..

    The latest iPlayer version 1.5.0.666 dated 13 December still doesn't work correctly on a Motorola Xoom 10.1" running standard Jelly Bean 4.1.2. Selecting the iPlayer app simply ivokes a shortcut to the browser with the bbc mobile site; not all of the features are available.

    Is this problem recognized by the development team and is it likely to be fixed?

    ________________________

    Other folk (see above) have reported this problem with 10" tablets. Could we have an update or comment from the development team that this problem is recognized and if a fix is likely to be forthcoming. Thank you. Without a fix and ability to run the iPlayer app correctly not all the features are available.

  • Comment number 83.

    Iplayer works pretty well on my HTC one X plus, but WHEN ARE WE GOING TO GET A DOWNLOAD FACILITY? living in an area where 3g coverage is poor (90% of UK geographically speaking! ) Iplayer is of little use without a wifi connection . Download facility would absolutely revolutionise Iplayer usage.

  • Comment number 84.

    When will the BBC make sure that BBC Media Player for an Android tablet is available to be downloaded, if one is in Jersey, from the Google Playstore? BBC TV is transmitted in Jersey, and we can get BBC iPlayer on a PC, and everyone with a TV is required to pay for a BBC TV licence. The manufacturer sends me links from the UK, yet mysteriously when one opens the link in Jersey, there is no sign of BBC Media Player that one can download.

  • Comment number 85.

    New Samsung Tablet 2 7.0 GT-P3110 now running Jellybean 4.1.1 after Samsung upgrade.
    Installed Iplayer and media player prior to upgrade and they worked albeit not very well however media player now does not work and even displays a message telling me that! I can get nothing to play but can see everything. Attempting to play leads to grey waiting circle then pink then return to title page.
    Help!!!!!!
    Uninstall and reinstall shows no improvement [STV player works fine]

  • Comment number 86.

    OK. So its a month on from this update and my Nexus 10 has just arrived. I've chosen this tablet in good faith that the iplayer will work in 'early 2013' as promised. Can we have an update on progress please on a version that will work at an accepable standard and with downloading.......

  • Comment number 87.

    "When will the BBC make sure that BBC Media Player for an Android tablet is available to be downloaded, if one is in the Jersey, from the Google Playstore? BBC TV is transmitted in Jersey, and we can get BBC iPlayer on a PC, and everyone with a TV is required to pay for a BBC TV licence. The manufacturer sends me links from the UK, yet mysteriously when one opens the link in Jersey, there is no sign of BBC Media Player that one can download."

    Isle of Man is the same!!

  • Comment number 88.

    still waiting on the android bbc sport app.... more hollow words from the bbc....

  • Comment number 89.

    So as on 4th September 2012 you announced and launched the Iplayer downloads for Ios, with Android to quote you're words "We will be bringing this feature to Android phones and tablets soon"

    I have to ask, 4 Months later, any updates etc on when you plan to launch it, or hope to?

  • Comment number 90.

    While it’s nice to hear that the BBC have not totally abandoned the Android platform you have to know you have one star on Android play for a very good reason, as it stands the iPlayer and Media player support for android remains dire.

    Please publicise it when you achieve mobile download on Android, you know as Google play movies where able to deliver ages ago. Until then I won’t bother reinstalling iplayer as it is useless for my purposes…let me explain; If I want to watch iplayer at home I do so on my smart TV. So the only place I would be likely to use it like many I suspect is on my train commute.

    Now my train commute goes through phone black spots so even with 4G and a suitably absurd data limit I would not be able to catch up on the train.

    iPlayer on Android is not a truly mobile app until you provide mobile download, it is entirely possible even you tube now allows preload, that requires only a minimal connection at the start of play back.

    As a software developer and with the resources the BBC are apparently focusing on Android I still can’t understand why you find mobile download so hard to support.

    We all know there are unofficial ways to download and side load programs to Android devices, direct from the BBC servers, though I won’t say what they are. I think the BBC should stop pushing people towards using these dubious methods when all they want to do is catch up with BBC programmes they could watch at home if they had the time anyway.

    Really BBC do what you like with quality it’s useless as a truly mobile app if you can’t download to watch when you don’t have a good connection.

    Anyway once you’ve achieved the relatively simple ability to do mobile download I will be vaguely interested again until then I’m not wasting space on my phone.

  • Comment number 91.

    Just to back up what people are saying, choosing to base their solution on AIR and Flash, is the reason the iplayer+media player combo on the Android platform are so poor and handle fragmentation poorly, something a native app would have much less problem with.

    The BBC and it's developers do seem rather clueless about how to develop for Android, they have made some fundementally poor decisions.

    Also please consider that by the time you deliver a good app, Android versions below 4 are likley to be as distant a memory as c90 cassette takes, and prioritise accordingly.

    I trade my old Galaxy S for an S3 today, but won't be installing iPlayer in it's current form I consider it essentially pointless.

  • Comment number 92.

    @Pireton, I'll think you'll find they mean soon in geological time, anytime withing the next thousand years or so.

  • Comment number 93.

    Ok one more thing and then I will back off until the BBC's next announcement, from the two frames shown in this blog post I can't help noticing they both look dire like the sort of incoding a modile phone from 2000 might do on a digital video, are you really bad of such a small quality increase from dire to awful? This is why you have one star for this application.

  • Comment number 94.

    Just to list some apps that have managed to tackle download to a wide range of Android devices:

    YouTube (precache, requires a connection just to start playback)
    Goog Play Movies no connection required at all license connected to google account.

    As for screen size differences coping with those is Android design 101, do the BBC really struggle so much with basic Android software design concepts.

    Almost every video stream and download app soes much better quality too.

  • Comment number 95.

    I have a Kindle Fire HD which plays iPlayer tv and radio catch up very well except for Radio 3 which crashes. Other Tablets seem to do the same. Is this a bitrate issue and can it be fixed?

  • Comment number 96.

    I suggest taking all the apple devices away from BBC development staff and giving them Android units. They might then focus on that platform and also test things properly. Since at least November I have been unable to get any iplayer radio programmes to run for more than 10 minutes before freezing.) If testing was done it wasn't for long ..... (Samsung Galaxy SII, Android 2.x, T-Mobile on all "Listen Again" programmes via both wifi and 3G)

  • Comment number 97.

    Can we have a statement about support for the (Intel atom-based) Motorola RAZR i, please?

    Thank you.

  • Comment number 98.

    Does anyone from the BBC read this blog or are we all wasting our time? Any chance of an update? Last BBC comment was over a month ago?
    Please let us know when this useless app will allow us to download programmes.

  • Comment number 99.

    New Nexus 7 bought specifically to watch BBC iPlayer. The apps do not work on Jelly Bean 4.2.1

    This is not acceptable and should be given a high priority since this tablet will increasingly replace the mini iPad. Come on BBC ; PLEASE !!!!!!!

  • Comment number 100.

    Unfortunately whatever you have done to the iplayer has ruined my enjoyment of it - as now my device will not play anything, which is a great shame. Can't you allow the old version to be downloaded when you are not supporting my device (and quite a few others" which is relatively new and gets the same message as a lot of people "is not being supported". Doesn't seem like progress to me. My view is "better to be able to watch something rather than nothing but in much better definition". Judging by the number of 1 star comments on Goggle play I am not alone.

 

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