BBC iPlayer App on Android: Update

Thursday 11 July 2013, 14:18

David Berlin David Berlin Senior Product Manager

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My name is David Berlin and I’m responsible for the BBC iPlayer mobile application on Android.

Last year Dave Price, Head of TV & iPlayer wrote about the importance of the  Android platform and how we are focusing on three key areas to improve the BBC iPlayer experience for audiences with these devices:

As a reminder, my team have been focusing on:

1) Achieving video playback quality parity with Apple iOS devices

2) Supporting the full range of Android screen sizes, including tablet support

3) Delivering mobile video downloads to Android devices

I'd like to give you an update on how we are delivering against these goals.

androidhomepage.jpg How the home page should look on a ten inch Android tablet

First stop - matching video quality

We’ve been gradually improving the video quality we serve over Wi-Fi to all Android devices, and had focused on delivering comparable (to iPad/iPhone) quality media to the 75% of you on our most popular devices.  On Tuesday we flicked a switch in MediaCityUK, Manchester, which enabled those higher quality streams on all of our most popular Android phones, tablets and ‘phablets’ that can handle them.

Second stop - supporting a range of screen sizes, including tablet support

With higher quality playback achieved on the most popular Android devices, we then moved on to addressing support for a range of screen sizes.

Since the Android app launched in February 2011, tablets larger than 7.1” have been able to install BBC iPlayer from the Android Market/Google Play.  However, when you tapped on the icon on your device home screen, it launched the BBC iPlayer mobile website.

With requests from tablets now making up around 20% of total iPlayer video requests each month, and larger tablets making up the majority of those requests, we wanted to focus on supporting these devices first.  We know that more and more of you are using your tablet like a personal TV – and want the benefits that an app can bring (such as mobile downloads – coming later this year) on these devices.  That’s why, a month ago we released an update to remove the website link and delivered the BBC iPlayer app to all Android phone, tablet and phablet device sizes (more than 3,000 different models). 

Third stop - mobile downloads

Prior to delivering mobile downloads, we felt it was critical to put these two building blocks of quality playback and support for larger tablets in place.  Today we have an Android development team that is almost 3 times the size of the iOS team.  Over the past months this team has made excellent progress building the downloads feature, and with 100% of the team now entirely focused on downloads we’re looking forward to accelerating the delivery and launching asap.

We appreciate the frustration the Android community has been experiencing in the time it is taking to deliver this desired feature, but I hope this provides a little more context around the complexities involved.

I read app store comments on a daily basis and try to work out the cause of the issues that some devices on certain OSs are experiencing. I’m always interested in feedback so please share your thoughts and comments below.

David Berlin is Senior Product Manager, TV & iPlayer Mobile Applications in BBC Future Media

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Video quality is great, well done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    David, thanks for your blog. Can you please give us an idea of when "asap" and "later this year" is?

    I bought my first tablet yesterday and, while the quality of the streaming video was very good, I was astonished to discover that I couldn't download programmes on the android itunes app. I understand the difficulties the fractured andorid ecosystem poses for developers but it is still astonishing that the BBC has not delivered on this sooner. Given that the cheapest devices tend to run Android rather than iOS, the BBC runs the risk of being accused of delivering a superior service to rich people who can afford iPads/iPhones than it does to those on tighter budgets who can't afford Apple products.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Doh! By "android itunes app" I obviously meant "android iplayer app". Must admit I've always wondered how you got away with calling it that without letting a lawyers letter from Cupertino!

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    GoogleTV support would be nice. There might not be that many people with a GTV box (there's just one device available in the UK), but as it is an Android device it would be good to support for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Could you correct the compatibility settings of the iplayer app in Google Play, it says it is compatible with my ZTE Blade, but when I try to use it, it says I need to install BBC Media Player which isn't compatible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Sync Favourites across all devices please, I have android, iPhone, iPad, PC, TV App and PVR app and different favourites on each device, I cant keep track of what device has which favourite.
    BBC ID is the account to sync with and use this to sign in on each device!

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    My experience is still exceedingly poor. Over the last 3 or 4 nights I have been trying to watch "Charles Darwin and the Tree of life" on my Nexus 7. The video keeps pausing then fast-forwarding and the sound lags the picture by about a second.

    Gave up and used get_iplayer. Perfect.

    Not a problem with my network as YouTube and Netflix are fine and speed tests give me over 8Mbps.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    thank you for the update and well done on what the iplayer now runs on. I've come across a funny little problem that makes no sense to me and am wondering if anybody else has the same?
    On my SG Tab 2 7" & 10.1" when I click on watch live channels and then BBC 1 or 2, (the rest work ok) I get "this programme is not available to play yet" Please try later. Yet on the home screen if I select Channels and then BBC 1 or 2 the live programme will show and I can play from there ok but the time of the show is out by an hour, This morning the Andrew Marr show was that but it's stated time was 8am, the 1 that's live now time shows 9am. I told you it's a funny 1, All my other Tabs work as they should so maybe it just Samsung Tabs. Pass

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Many thanks for the comments so far.

    We’re pushing hard to launch downloads on Android as early as possible and we’re not far off. We’ve had to first solve the problems with playback, extend support to 10” tablets and create a new more stable codebase based on ICS/Jelly Bean, before we could get our teeth back into this project. I hope you appreciate that I can't be specific on exact dates here, we've got some more development work and a lot of testing to do to get it all ship shape before we release it. But I can assure you that we've got the work in hand.

    GoogleTV is a device that we would like to support and we have been working with Google to investigate how to do so.

    @Dave Parker
    Thanks for letting us know. Unfortunately, BBC Media Player is unable to support the ZTE Blade, so I have just hidden BBC iPlayer from this device in the Google Play Store.

    @Eponymous Cowherd & @Paul
    Sorry to hear that you’re experiencing problems, we’re looking into what might be the cause.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Hi David, I have read a now closed blog by Keith Mitchell who says that the BBC Sport App is now compatible with Android 2.2 devices and greater. However it is still not compatible with my Google Nexus 10 Tablet. Do you have any idea when it will be?

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Firstly thank you for the update, I think most of us have been feeling a bit frustrated not only at the slow progress in releasing key feature parity with other platforms, but also at the lack of meaningful progress updates.

    That said I think you had your priorities wrong, mobile download is the feature that makes the iplayer app worth having on my S3 for my commute. IMO it’s the key feature but of course others may disagree.

    I have to admit I’m still feeling a little strung along on mobile download, the BBC’s idea of coming soon seems to be a very flexible concept and since you still can’t be more specific I can still only read that it’s somewhere between a month and a year away as it was last September.

    Please keep working on it I really look forward to the day iPlayer is no longer the least used app on my phone and actually has a function for me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    I do have to add that I always feel the BBC play up the issue of fragmentation, as someone who has done a bit of Android development myself there are ways of coping with it that are pretty well established. Although I appreciate this type of app may have more issues than most.

    I think the real issue remains satisfying rights holders that you’re DRM solution is secure on android an irony giver the open nature of your server streams.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    "create a new more stable codebase based on ICS/Jelly Bean, before we could get our teeth back into this project."

    Ok I hadn't read that first I think that's a reasonable reason to delay. I know you cannot give us an exact ETA for a project like this maybe give us a not before date since I'm sure you have a project plan showing the earlest date it might be delivered on the happy path through testing. Sounds like it's at least 3-4 months away still to me. Which is sad but I'd rather not get my hopes up at seeing it sooner if that's unrealistic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    iplayer might install but it requests the media player app which isn't compatible with my Samsung Galaxy Ace. This is, surely, a common enough phone, but apparently not one of your stated '3,000' compatible devices?

  • Comment number 15.

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

  • Comment number 16.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    I think it's laughable how late the full functionality of iplayer services has taken to reach Android. I understand the difficulties it brings but Sky Go have managed it perfectly well with their download feature, launched on Android and ios at the same time. A delay is one thing, this is just ridiculous now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    @17 Doesn't look as though its a smooth ride for Android on the Sky Go forums though....

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Out of interest, why is there an offline option for Apple products and not Android? Is there a relationship between the BBC and Google? With a smartphone sale ratio of 51% vs 43% showing Android has more devices, shouldn't more effort be given to Android?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    @ David Berlin
    Thank you for your reply, is there any logs et al I can send to over this little bug, it's still present.
    @Mike C
    That's odd as the BBC Sport app work's great on my Nexus 10, good quality stream the lot.
    Sky are miles behind the BBC iplayer with their Sky Go app, Sky supports 38 android devices on sky go while the BBC iplayer 3000+, Also you have to pay £5 a month to Sky to be able to download any of their content. Sky only went for the download option first so they could get more money from their customers, The way the BBC has developed the app is the correct way IMHO, get everybody online first and then deal with the download option after that. The BBC have put customers first while sky have put profit first.
    Sky customer have been onto Sky about android support on Sky Go for 2 yrs and they still don't support large screen android devices they have broken so many promises they are now the joke of media providers.
    1010 BBC 1/10 for Sky


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