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BBC iPlayer & N95: Update

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Matthew Postgate Matthew Postgate | 16:20 UK time, Friday, 10 October 2008

Since we launched BBC iPlayer on the N96, I've seen a number of blog posts describing how the widget can be used on other Symbian series 60 devices (like the N95). At the moment, using the widget on devices other than the N96 is not supported - something we have been very clear about.

I can reassure andibeeb that this is not because the BBC has any kind of deal with Nokia to promote some types of phones over others. It is because we have not yet got the user experience on other devices to a point we are happy with.

While the mobile version of bbc.co.uk is a service that works across the broadest possible range of devices (even down to WML 1.0 browsers), Mobile BBC iPlayer is designed to be a much richer proposition. We have had to work very hard to get the level of user experience we are happy with and at the moment we have only been able to create that level of experience on the Nokia N96 and the Apple iPhone. The N96 improves on previous S60 devices in a number of ways like screen size and memory capacity, but one of the most important upgrades is with the way it integrates the browser and media player applications.

n96_billboard.jpg
Photo of N96 advertising hoading courtsey of Jason DaPonte

Previous handsets do not automatically carry the browser's current network connection settings over to the phone's media player. As a result, you could select Wi-Fi on the browser, but without knowing it end up watching streams over 3G connections. This could lead to you getting bigger bills than you were expecting.

Looking at how we could support legacy devices is one of the things that the team is working on at the moment and was something we have been looking at for a while but we have not cracked it yet. As I said in my original post, we want to introduce support for other devices as soon as we can and I will post more when we have some news.

Mathew Postgate is Controller, Mobile, BBC Future Media & Technology

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    This is simply not true. All S60 phones from the Oh, 7650 upwards have had RealPlayer and they all work the same.

    The streaming access point has to be set up within RealPlayer whichever phone you're using, be it the N95, N96 or Apple iPhone.

    iPlayer works (well, sort of works) on ANY current S60 phone; even those not made by Nokia... it's still flakey as though... hopefully the BBC will fix that soon!

  • Comment number 2.

    The above comment is simply not true.

    Having recently upgraded from an E65 to the N96 I can confirm that while the Real Player application can indeed still be configured for always use your 3G connection if it is launched via the iPlayer application it will use the WiFi connection. When I've used Real Player on my E65 it always used its configured connection (and annoyingly could not be configured to always ask) rather than what the launching process was using.

    In fact, the task list will not list a separate process for Real Player when launched from iPlayer, suggesting the difference is in the ability to embed Real Player within your own application.

    I'd guess this feature was introduced with S60 Feature Pack 2. Only three devices currently available use this latest version. The 6220 Classic has no WiFi, so that's out. The N78 might be a better proposition, but seems to lack (from what I can tell) hardware accelerated video, this coupled with the highly limited built in storage makes a very good case for no official support.

    The point is not whether it works, just that the BBC don't want take the risk (and quite frankly, it *would* happen sooner rather than later) of someone blaming them for a sky-high bill due to 3G usage.

  • Comment number 3.

    Thanks Matthew for the update about support for N95.

    I wonder if, instead of a complete block on access via N95, it might be possible to display a prominent warning message before any download page?

    For instance, my N95 phone comes with unlimited internet access, so even if the programmes stream over 3G, it wouldn't cost me any extra. I'm also not going to see a high international roaming bill because iplayer is only available within the UK.

    I used to enjoy watching on the N95 a live stream of BBC News 24, during the BBC's 3G TV trial which ended last year. I currently listen to the iplayer radio content on the N95, via BBC hosted realplayer links that are indexed on a third party website.

    I hope you can find a way to make available the iplayer TV content, with appropriate warning messages if necessary, so that users who know what they're doing can choose to watch on the N95.

  • Comment number 4.

    I agree with the previous poster, why not display a warning when users install the widget on devices that are not officially supported rather than blocking them completely?

    I've seen instructions in forums describing how people have successfully modified the iPlayer widget to work on several other S60 devices (including FP1 ones and non-Nokia ones). Even if it's not what you guys consider the optimal experience it's obviously good enough for the people who have done these hacks. Why not save them the hassle of hacking the widget?

    A potential benefit for you might be that you can get feedback of how well the widget works (or not) on non-N96 devices which can help you as you try to officially support more devices.

    Everybody wins :-)

  • Comment number 5.

    I tried this last night - strangely - the N95 8Gb appears to be capable of working, but the content was blocked as the IP address was not recognised as being from the UK. Even though I was sat down in the living room in the north of England at the time.

    The text mentioned that maybe some of the servers were located out of the UK and therefore the content could not be displayed.

    Glad that the N96 works with the iplayer though, and would be interested if users of the N95 8Gb on networks other than 3 could confirm (or deny) they have similar problems.

    DC

  • Comment number 6.

    Well, ok. My first post was somewhat superficial in it's precise explaination, based on what the BBC are claiming is an N96 "only" feature.

    In fact, what they're talking about is the ability of Web (the browser and hence what runs iPlayer on S60 phones) to "pass through" the WiFi connection to RealPlayer. This feature is actually a S60 V3 FP2 feature, so will work in ANY new Nokia or Samsung phone, such as the N96, N95, i8510, N79 etc.

    The BBC really need to be a bit more accurate in their "explainations" and tell us the truth!

  • Comment number 7.

    More to the point, how is it the BBC's problem to decide whether or not a user's experience is good enough? Using this reasoning could we expect the BBC to discontinue non-surround sound audio on TV for programmes they're 'not happy' that I experience in mono? Stop doing discounted licences for blind TV owners because they're missing out on the full effect? Insist we watch Merlin in widescreen or not at all?

    It would be a nonsense on TV, and it's just as much a nonsense on any other device. It should be each viewers choice whether they're more happy to choose a less than ideal experience over no experience at all, or not.

    Even if it weren't for the clear evidence of the existence of hacks allowing people to use the iPlayer on unapproved devices like older phones, the PS3 etc. showing that there's a demand for 'OK' iPlayer services where 'perfect' isn't possible, it would still be wrong in principle for the BBC to try to dictate what is, or isn't, good enough for us. Just put the material out there in as open a fashion as possible, and let us decide whether we want to watch it.

  • Comment number 8.

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

  • Comment number 9.

    I agree completely with stuclark1975.

    The critical factor on the N95 is the streaming setting for RealPlayer, If this is set to a 3G connection and the initial connection to iplayer is made by wifi, the programme will not play. If the RealPlayer streaming setting corresponds to the wifi setting, it will.

    This leaves the only significant comment as the better user experience on the N96 due to the bigger screen, Personally, I have watched a number of programmes on the N95 and both the sound and vision quality are both good.

    I can see no good reason why iplayer should not be fully implemented on the N95, with download capability.


  • Comment number 10.

    All I can say is, I got a quick and easy fix from a Symbian forum back on the 1st Oct, which took me 5 minutes or less, used only a text editor and winzip, and since then have been enjoying iPlayer on my Nokia 6220 Classic over a 3G connection (it doesn't have Wifi). And the user experience was perfect. And lots of other people have it working fine on all sorts of NSeries and ESeries devices. So the "party line" that it is N96 only is a policy rather than technical or usability decision.

  • Comment number 11.

    Mr Postgate,

    You seem to be providing a valid reason why iPlayer streams should not be enabled on an N95, but the streams are actually the only thing that DO work. You have not explained why downloads do not work on the N95, either with the new app or by sideloading from Windows Media Player.

  • Comment number 12.

    I would like to see this available for Nokia N95 8Gb too.

    The excuses which the beeb are coming up with for not allowing us to use this device to stream iplayer content seem very weak.

    I too have an all inclusive package for 3g internet use on my phone. I am quite happy to 'take the risk' of running up a large bill to watch iplayer. It will not happen.

    Why do the BBC insist onm acting like a nanny state? We are resonsible adults.

    As we have seen, the iplayer was working on N95 8Gb rercently, but has now been blocked.

    We are licence payers, and we demand access. It is for us to decide if the content is rich enough or not; not some beaurocrat at the Beeb. Put it out as a beta if you must, then you won't get complaints about the quality of service. At the end of the day, some service is better than none at all. At the end of the day, we have paid for this service through our licence fees, just the same as N96 users.

    Currently, we are being discriminated against.

    Why don't you stop me listening to Radio Five on MW? Better devices are available for listening to radio now, with more clarity etc etc. But the Beeb wouldn't dream of taking radio 5 off MW until it can get a national FM licence for it.

    Come on beeb - as del boy once said - you know it makes sense!

  • Comment number 13.

    er.... actually, I just found a link for the widget and downloaded it. It works BRILLIANTLY!!!!

    THANKS BEEB!!!!!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/mobile/iplayer/iplayer.wgz

    Iplayer beta v1.5.0 for Nokia N95 8Gb

  • Comment number 14.

    I also have downloaded and installed the iplayer.wgz beta v1.5 and it works just fine on my N95 8GB, streaming over wifi from my home hub, but the download just fails with a message 'phone does not support this content type'. Is there any way of fixing this or do we just have to wait for the Beeb to remove the block?

  • Comment number 15.

    I too am bemused as to why the BBC prevents people from acessing content.

    I have been accessing BBC radio stations using RealPlayer on my Nokia N73 via 3G for almost two years now - despite the BBC making it very difficult to do.

    I recently upgraded to a Nokia N96 (partly because of the iPlayer) but I'm puzzled as to why the BBC block access to live radio streams on 3G - only allowing access via WiFi connections.

    OK, all I had to do was copy the shortcuts over from my old N73 to continue listening via 3G, but I just can't understand why the BBC goes out of its way to make it so difficult.

  • Comment number 16.

    Postgate: This simply does not stack up as an argument, justification, reason or anything else. I have a N95 8GB on three with version 21 firmware. I am running iplayer 1.5 perfectly well - all fine except the saving and playing of downloaded programmes. Streaming play back works perfectly over wifi and 3g. I am able to download shows over wifi but not save and hence play them back due to the drm restrictions. This, to me, makes no sense. I am able to record bbc programming from the tv and keep and watch it back indefinitely. I have paid for it. Let me download shows to my n95! The point about data usage is mixed up - if i wanted to i could use my 'unlimited' 3g data allowance up by streaming iplayer to my phone. I've made no hacks at all. Simply add a warning/disclaimer as other applictions do saying that users may incur high charges if they stream over 3g. It really isn't that hard! Incidently, there is a application you can use on symbian devices to automatically select the most appropriate access point (3g or wifi's) which i use with real player. This makes it much easier when switching from a wifi environment to a 3g environment and means you don't have to manually change the access point in real player each time. Easy.

  • Comment number 17.

    FTR, I have an N95 8GB.

    Yesterday I installed & tested the IPlayer application - and it worked *perfectly* over my home WLAN for streaming.

    A great diversion, but hardly a useful one: I'm tied to watching at home!

    Much more useful would be if I could *download* directly to the phone, and then watch stuff on my way into work etc.

    (Is the lack of this because the N95-8GB currently does *not* support WMV?)

    I really hope that this is implemented soon.

  • Comment number 18.

    i've just installed iplayer onto my nokia n82 from www.bbc.co.uk/mobile/iplayer/iplayer.wgz.
    it installs but will not work - the only option i have is to exit.
    it appears the n95 does work (partially) with iplayer, but the n82 will not work at all

  • Comment number 19.

    I have an N95 8GB and can stream but not save content. I am amazed that given the number of requests that the BBC and more specifically Mattew Postgate have not felt moved to further justify the position or give us a date when the many many licence payers that have N95 phones will have proper access the content they pay for.

    Mr. Postgate was clear that there was no commercial tie with Nokia that lead the BBC to develop on the N96 but the notion that one should develop for a new rather than an established an numerous product is unfathomable.

    If, as other contributors have suggested there are arbitrary blocks on content access or downloading then this is a disgrace.
    Mr. Postgate a month has passed since the your last comments, I for one would be keen to learn what developments have been made in that time.

    Given that there is a credit crunch and a drive to greener living, would it not be a public service broadcasters’ responsibility to bring new content to existing hardware rather than putting strain on the environment and licence payers finances by requiring the purchase of new hardware.


  • Comment number 20.

    Can all these people complaining about the lack of N95 downloading not read the bit where it's clearly explained?

    Timed expiry DRM is a non-negotiable requirement for iPlayer downloads (unless you want to the licence fee to quintouple due to extra licencing costs). The N96 supports timed-expiry DRM, and hence gets downloads. The N95 doesn't support timed-expiry DRM, and hence doesn't get downloads. And will never get them.

    The only people who can change that are Nokia, and I don't think even they can actually without physical modification to the handset.

  • Comment number 21.

    Re The_Phazer

    the changes required are sofware based and not hardware based as the N95 is not much different from the N96 and would only require a quick firmware

    however i can confirm the iplayer works without saving content to the N95 8GB

  • Comment number 22.

    Similar N95 8Gb results. I installed it from the .wgz link someone kindly gave above, and it works brilliantly. But so far only on my home WLAN. I've tried it in two pub LANs and no joy. One Wetherspoon on the Cloud network, and one privately owned.

    I get a message like "Connection required", and then "Connection failed." But as I say, at home, where it's least needed, it's a stunner, and I recommend the Beeb run with that one.

  • Comment number 23.

    Seems like 1.5.0 has had a stealth update that prevents it from working with the N95 (and in turn enabls the N85). Poking around inside the .wgz shows that the list of Nokia phones inside app-min.js has been altered from (n95|n96|n78) to (n85|n96|n78). Since a .wgz file is just a .zip file with a different file extension it's simple enough to take it apart and modify it so the N95 works once again.

  • Comment number 24.

    I have been using my N95 8GB with Iplayer for a few weeks now, downloading via my pc without any problems!! I was given a program that converts the BBC code to one that RealPlayer recognises ( but still keeps the expiry after a week of watching it and preventing copies being made, take note BBC!! ) and it just plays it like a normal video file without having to access iplayer via 3G or WiFi. How did I get this program? From an ex-BBC employee who worked on setting up the thing in the first place!! So they do know how to get it working, just not via their website. Quality isn't perfect, but fine for watching in my lunchbreak. Can't see any problems with the copyright issue, as you can't copy or keep the file for any longer than if you had it on your pc and you can only access it in the UK, and I checked this with a lawyer friend before posting this!! Better safe than sorry! And no, I won't provide a link for the program either!! Just one warning, the battery only lasts for 50 mins from fully charged as it uses a LOT of the N95's processing power to run it properly.

  • Comment number 25.

    reply to Peter Maling and others, having "connection required" errors...

    This is probably down to your N95's Real Player app and not the iplayer.

    Go to your real layer app on you phone and select options> settings> streaming>network.

    You will notice you can only select one default access point. You will probably find this access point set to your home wifi access point (hence it works at home). For you to use the iPlayer on the move you will manually need to switch this setting to your mobile access point before you start the iplayer app.

    iplayer does NOT ask real player to ask you to select an access point when you run the streaming video. It goes with the default on the real player app, EVEN if you have selected a different access point when opening the iPlayer app. This causes a conflict and you get the error you are reporting.

    NOTE, If you've used mobile data services on the move,make sure you switch the real player setting back when you want to use the iplayer on you phone with wifi. Otherwise you will continue to pay the data fees to your mobile provider despite having selected your wifi at iplayer app startup.

  • Comment number 26.

    I used the beta version on my n95 and I just downloaded the update, but it seems to have stopped working altogther.

    Does anyone know if there is an issue with the n95 or where I can get the beta from?

  • Comment number 27.

    This "beta version" is not supported by the BBC. See this blog post by Matthew Postgate for more details.

  • Comment number 28.

    Hi Guys,
    I notice beta 1.6 will not work on the N95!

    So I have found a archive on the 1.5 version and that works fine! ;-)

    Like it’s already been stated already there just needs to be a warning about 3G data plans and it’s more highly advisable to use a Wi-Fi connection.

    Although there is a freeware application for the N95 that will automatically try to use Wi-Fi connections first before automatically dropping down to HSDPA ect.

    The N95 and N95 8GB are very popular handsets (far more than the N96) so I think it’s a bit silly restricting the more widespread handset’s.

    The iPlayer is currently one of the best services the BBC have launched it would be nice to see it more accessible.

    Not that I care to much as 1.5 works fine on my n95 8GB. ;-)

    Cheers!
    Jase.

  • Comment number 29.

    Hi jasonetheridge

    i am also trying to install iplayer on my nokia N95 8GB.

    can you let me know where can i find version 1.5 of iplayer?

    cheers

  • Comment number 30.

    GUYS its here on n95


    www.bbc.co.uk/mobile/iplayer

    go there on your phone and download. no video downloads yet though...

  • Comment number 31.

    It's mobile day - expect posts about this soon.

  • Comment number 32.

    Basically, the newest damned wgz file from BBC prevents any phone other than N96 from accessing mobile iplayer (even N78, and perhaps N95 etc).

    For those who have this problem, download ver 1.0 of the iplayer wgz file here:

    http://www.createopen.com/m/iplayer.wgz

  • Comment number 33.

    sirskik - are you sure? See this blog post.

  • Comment number 34.

    Thank you.. http://www.gelsesli.com/ sesli sohbet

 

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