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BBC iPlayer Android App Update

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David Madden | 15:14 UK time, Monday, 27 February 2012

 

Screen capture of iPlayer running on Android

 

The BBC iPlayer Android app has achieved 1.3 million installs since it was launched in February 2011. Today we are releasing a new version of the app. This new version includes streaming over 3G networks and an updated Adobe Flash player, for improved playback.

3G Streaming

We have worked with the network operators to introduce 3G streaming to the BBC iPlayer apps so you can watch your favourite TV programme wherever you are or listen to the radio when you are out and about.

Today's update to the BBC iPlayer Android app includes 3G streaming for both live and catch up TV and radio programmes and works across all UK mobile networks.

The BBC iPlayer apps are a free service.

However, do be aware that your operator may charge you for the amount of 3G data you use. If you are unsure how much 3G data costs on your tariff, contact your network operator.

We currently redirect Android 3 tablets from the app to a BBC iPlayer mobile website that is optimised for the larger screen size. We have some more work to do on the mobile website to offer 3G streaming to Android 3 tablets and, for the time being, the mobile web experience on Android 3 will remain a Wi-Fi only service.

Updated Media Player

We have had a lot of feedback and Android Market comments on the video quality of the BBC iPlayer Android app. As a result of your comments a great deal of work has been done to improve the playback experience and this update includes an updated Adobe Flash player.

The app will, of course, evolve and improve as we refine the interface and add features.

The team would really welcome your comments and feedback on the app. When we Tweet about iPlayer we use a #bbciplayer hashtag, so if you would like to use this too, that would be great.

I am always keen to know what you think and would love to hear from you.

David Madden is Executive Product Manager for BBC iPlayer on mobile

Update; 6.30 p.m.

Some people have asked why the BBC iPlayer Android app asks for permission to access your phone's Network communication, Phone calls and System tools.

These are standard Android app permissions that are defined by the Google Android platform. The 3 permissions the BBC iPlayer Android app asks to use are:

Network Communication - full internet access.

Granting this permission provides the BBC iPlayer Android app with access to the internet so it can play programmes.

Phone Calls - read phone state and identity.

Granting this permission provides the BBC iPlayer Android app with phone communication status and notifies the application if the phone rings or a phone call is in progress. We use this to ensure that the BBC iPlayer app pauses if you receive a phone call while watching a programme. The BBC iPlayer Android app does not access or store any personal information, phone numbers or IMEI numbers.

System tools - preventing phone from sleeping, retrieve running applications.

Granting this permission provides the BBC iPlayer Android app with the ability to prevent the phone going to sleep when you are watching a programme.

Thanks.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    3G is an improvement over WiFi-only, but I'd still prefer the option to download files rather than stream them.

    Streaming over 3G is going to run down my data allowance pretty rapidly, and won't work when I'm on the tube or in an area of poor reception. Downloading at home on WiFi so I can watch at my leisure would be much more useful.

  • Comment number 2.

    Please explain the new permissions that have been requested in the latest Android update.

  • Comment number 3.

    As per @2 I'm curious to know what the new permissions are required for. For those not aware they are...
    - PHONE CALLS: Read phone state and identity
    - SYSTEM TOOLS: Retrieve running applications
    ...At a guess I'm assuming the first relates to DRM, and perhaps the second is to ensure you're not using any other app which could record/download the programmes.

  • Comment number 4.

    @3 the "phone calls" permission is to allow an app to detect if a phone call has been started and pause playback. Even Angry Birds does that!

  • Comment number 5.

    Still massively power hungry. Still forces the screen on for radio. Still using mobile Flash when Adobe have announced that they're discontinuing support for it.

    Stop using Flash - it is the source of all your problems. Just let the Android folks (and everyone else) access the HTML5 video version that the iOS devices get and be done with it.

  • Comment number 6.

    New iPlayer app works nicely on my ICS Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which is nice.

    Still get the "redirect to a page saying it won't work" on my TF101.

  • Comment number 7.

    Is there any progress towards being able to download programmes? I appreciate there are DRM issues but these have been resolved in the desktop apps. It would be ideal to download at home over wifi the programme that I want to see whilst on my commute - like many people I don't really want to blow out my data allowance and like many others my commute takes me through areas of terrible, and indeed non-existant, coverage. At the moment this means iPlayer on Android is still not useful to me for commuting.

  • Comment number 8.

    But why can't the Android version use the HTML5 streams that the iPhone does? Flash isn't being supported on Android going forward, and it would make the iPlayer application so much more efficient.

    Also, why does listening to the radio still require the screen to be turned on?

    And why can will still not sign in with our BBC IDs to access our favourites?

    Very much looking forward to an update with those issues addressed...

  • Comment number 9.

    Oh great - no iPlayer facility to disable 3G streaming and no prompt from the iPlayer software that it will be using 3G.

    Does the BBC have to try to be inept?

  • Comment number 10.

    So for the moment anyone running Android 3 on a tablet gets an App that does nothing more than launch their device's browser? Excellent. Just what was needed -- an easy to download browser bookmark.

  • Comment number 11.

    ...and in the meantime, everything I try and listen to in the browser freezes roughly two minutes into the programme. My device is up to date, both in terms of its operating system, Flash, and browser, and I do not get a similar problem on the Windows laptop connected to the same WiFi.

    As to new features, could it be made to work before you get to those?

  • Comment number 12.

    I'm not that fussed about the bits and bobs of technology that the BBC uses, provided a great user experience is delivered. The Beeb is heading in the right direction with this release, although there is still a long way to go.

    Streaming live radio and, occasionally for me, television over 3G is a big plus, although keeping the screen on when playing live radio is a strange move, so I'll probably continue using a separate app for that.

    iPlayer for Android will become truly usable when users are allowed to download programmes to be played back at leisure.

  • Comment number 13.

    Thank you BBC for allowing streaming on 3g, I will be making most of this. Some people are moaning about using up the data allowance, well maybe they are on the wrong tariff, so far I am aware there are now 3 mobile networks offering unlimited data allowance e.g there is no fair use policy and throttling. I no longer have a home landline and home ADSL. Now using my mobile 3g connection for everything which include tethering on my PC and PS3 which allows me to watch BBCi Player.

  • Comment number 14.

    All it needs now is for the BBC to produce some programs worth watching. Iplayer has been sitting on my phone for months doing nothing.

  • Comment number 15.

    Post numbers 1 and 8 have it spot on!

    The ability to download a program for viewing on the tube/bus (or in my case the train where reception is spotty) is a must for this kind of application. Also the decision to only play radio with the screen on is daft and I will have to continue to use Tune In Radio to play BBC radio streams (not only does it have a better interface but it allows the phone to keep the screen off)

    Now I have unlimited data and use about 3 Gb ish a month so its not the streaming data I have issues with, its more that there are too many holes in reception where I don't have full HSDPA reception so buffering options or downloads are a must to make this useful.

    Lastly the time lag in updates to this application (which to be fair is quite a simple wrapper for most things) is pretty long and needs to improve but I am looking forward to future updates and am glad the BBC is finally putting some time and money into Android.

  • Comment number 16.

    I don't know how you can say that for tablets the app redirects to a site appropriate for a large screen. The app sometimes redirects (often it complains about being incompatible with your phone!), and the site is about the worst looking site ever. The sort of site that you might design if you knew your content was going to be used on a 64x128 pixel display with a processor to slow to do any screen formatting. It's a bunch of thumbnails in a table. It's a complete embarrassment. I honestly can't believe that more than a day went in to "designing" that site, and the meeting must have gone like this: "How can we put the links on the most basic page possible in the least time possible". "Easy, just loop over the programs, dumping the image, title and a link. Don't worry about layout or anything like that - these users are too stupid to buy a nice iPad like I've got, so they won't care".

  • Comment number 17.

    @3 From http://iplayerhelp.external.bbc.co.uk/help/mobile_iplayer/android_app_permission/

    These are standard Android app permissions that are defined by the Google Android platform. The three permissions the BBC iPlayer Android app asks to use are:

    Network Communication - full internet access.
    Granting this permission provides the BBC iPlayer Android app with access to the internet so it can play programmes.

    Phone Calls - read phone state and identity.
    Granting this permission provides the BBC iPlayer Android app with phone communication status and notifies the application if the phone rings or a phone call is in progress. We use this to ensure that the BBC iPlayer app pauses if you receive a phone call while watching a programme. The BBC iPlayer Android app does not access or store any personal information, phone numbers or IMEI numbers.

    System tools - preventing phone from sleeping, retrieve running applications.
    Granting this permission provides the BBC iPlayer Android app with the ability to prevent the phone going to sleep when you are watching a programme.

  • Comment number 18.

    Firstly the positive: 3G. Thank you - it is not for the BBC to tell me how to use my data contract (while the notification is very welcome), so definitiely a big improvement.

    But the negatives still make this a non-starter for radio at least: the streams are still aac audio in a Flash wrapper. So we have to use resource hungry Flash, with the screen on! No wonder my battery only lasts a couple of hours if I want to listen to iPlayer.

    Come on BBC - the iPhone has direct aac access (and so plays in the background or with the screen off), so it can't be a DRM concern....

    As for video, I think I (partly) understand the focus on Flash for video: on the dekstop player, iPlayer now seems to move between streams of different quality based on bandwidth available. This presumably is where the beeb are heading for mobile usage too and (I think) wouldn't be easy using HTML5.

  • Comment number 19.

    Another thought: Do you need the "Phone Calls" permission?

    You say it's to stop playback, but wouldn't the video/audio pause automatically anyway as soon as the Flash element loses focus?

  • Comment number 20.

    Firstly, thanks for the update; it's great apart from the quality not being that great over HDSP with good coverage and speed in my current location.

    I'm a massive fan of Android, but I have to admit that I'm getting fed up of seeing an application's rating being trashed by users on the Android market because of their lack of understanding of the permissions model on Android.

    Whilst the application needs work, it certainly doesn't deserve a one star rating but that's currently what's hapenning to the app on the Android market. I appreciate that there's been loads of reports of mobile applications having access to more user data than they should, not only on Android but other platforms but people seriously need to lay off the tin foil hat approach.

    Definitely agree that favouring HTML5 video over flash is a better solution.

  • Comment number 21.

    "9.At 22:17 27th Feb 2012, Retty1 wrote:
    Oh great - no iPlayer facility to disable 3G streaming and no prompt from the iPlayer software that it will be using 3G.
    Does the BBC have to try to be inept?"

    OMG. Exactly why I was reading these comments to see make sure there was an option to disable 3G, as I feared there wouldnt be.

    I shall not be downloading the updated version until there is an option to switch off 3G streaming, as I am not on an unlimited data tariff, and I am unlikely to want to pay more to get such a tariff

  • Comment number 22.

    "13.At 09:22 28th Feb 2012, runningman wrote:

    ...Some people are moaning about using up the data allowance, well maybe they are on the wrong tariff, so far I am aware there are now 3 mobile networks offering unlimited data allowance e.g there is no fair use policy and throttling...."

    Out of interest, what networks and how much does this cost?

    I get 500 MB on a £20 p.m. tariff, and just dont want 3G streaming if it means paying a lot more.

  • Comment number 23.

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

  • Comment number 24.

    Finally we have 3G streaming! However I believe Android need to be more clear on permissions especially after the recent report on apps collecting sensitive data on users and selling them on without permission.

    Giffgaff, which runs on o2 has 250mins, unlimited texts and best of all unlimited data with no FUP for only £10! I use about 5-7GB a month!

  • Comment number 25.

    Verdict on the Android iPlayer update:

    Good points
    The user interface layout is much improved.
    The persistent full-screen controls problem seems to have been fixed.
    Now works over 3G.
    Subtitles on many programmes.
    Appears to resume correctly after phone calls (though not always).

    Bad points
    Sound still goes out of synch with picture.
    Still needs screen on for radio.
    Can now only watch one programme. Attempts to watch another fail (just get "waiting" spinner). Need to kill iPlayer with task manager and restart to watch another.
    Still relies on Adobe Flash, so disenfranchises users of low to mid range devices. They pay their TV licences too, you know.

    Regarding permissions
    While the permissions that are asked for can be used for the stated purposes, in a well behaved Android app they should not be necessary. Possibly they are used because of problems on certain devices, or because the usual hooks (onPause, etc) do not trigger reliably through Flash.

    Verdict
    An improvement. Not a vast improvement, and certainly not acceptable for a whole year's effort, but better than nothing.

  • Comment number 26.

    "Oh great - no iPlayer facility to disable 3G streaming and no prompt from the iPlayer software that it will be using 3G."

    I was about to reply saying that there _is_ a pop-up that wans you when you connect over 3G. But having just checked, it doesn't appear to be there any more...maybe it only appears the first time you try to use 3G...

  • Comment number 27.

    I upgraded this afternoon and I'm convinced the video quality when watching TV over a WiFi connection is worse than the previous version. I have set the video quality to "High" BTW.

  • Comment number 28.

    Does this upgrade explain why my 2nd generation iPod Touch has stopped playing content even through Safari? I see the iPlayer Ap requires an operating system version (4.3)only available to 3rd and 4th gen iPods.

  • Comment number 29.

    From elsewhere I have found it is down to the "upgrade." The BBC know about it and are working on a solution. Get a bloomin' move on!

  • Comment number 30.

    @28: This particular update is for Android powered phones, completely unrelated to your Apple iOS powered iPod Touch problem.

  • Comment number 31.

    Not sure where to post this!!

    iplayer on Desktop for Mac.

    We have hideously slow broadband so I have tried to download the desktop version but I just get an error message. Please advise.

    Thanks

  • Comment number 32.

    @30 Keith,

    The suggestion is that the changes made to the iPlayer service in order to support the new Android app have adversely affected iOS 4.2 devices.

    It sounds unlikely as the two devices use completely different media formats for iPlayer, but it is possible.

  • Comment number 33.

    Any sign of non-network radio stations being added so people can listed to Radio Ulster, Radio Scotland etc?

  • Comment number 34.

    I agree completely that the ability to download over wifi, an android equivalent to i-player desktop, would be very valuable. Viewing over 3G while on a train, for example, is not a good experience with constant pauses for data catch-up and it eats up data allowance. Viewing the same content downloaded would be break-free and could be achieved much more economically

  • Comment number 35.

    With the upgrade the Iplayer app always forgets my favourites, which is a pain.

  • Comment number 36.

    It is possible to download, not though the app, but either by sideloading (allowing for a rename on the file extension, and a andriod file manger that lets you rename it back again after copy), or you could also spoof you user agent (in Opera Mobile) to one of the devices that allow download (see http://iplayerhelp.external.bbc.co.uk/help/mobile_iplayer/mobile_phone), set it to desktop, visit the website and download mobile version on viewing the licence will be download and away you go..

  • Comment number 37.

    I have a galaxys2 w. hich uses android. Sideloading no longer works and I'm getting an error that says "The licence for this content does not allow copying it to a portable device" I have recently had the galaxy repaired. Any ideas?

  • Comment number 38.

    Great for radio until you discover the screen-on thing. Why?

  • Comment number 39.

    @38 Sven Ellis.

    Simple. Flash.

    The BBC's (frankly absurd, IMHO) decision to use Flash for Android iPlayer delivery is at fault, here. The Flash player will only run in the foreground. This is completely outside of the BBC's control while they persist in using Flash as the delivery medium.

  • Comment number 40.

    I have an android 4 tablet (N90 FastTab) which is unable to use the iplayer app or the iplayer website. As a software engineer I fail to understand why this should be so difficult. I tend to get error messages about my phone not being supported. What difference does it make what kind of device I have, surely it's a matter of browser and/or flash version. Can anyone enlighten me as to why this doesn't work. Even better - could the BBC let us know when a beta html5 version will be ready? You already have it working on playstations so why not a beta website? What's the difficulty there?

  • Comment number 41.

    My Android phone will not display Flash. Using this as an opportunity to learn Spanish by using the Radio National Espanol Android app instead.

  • Comment number 42.

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

  • Comment number 43.

    Since I acquired my android smart phone in February, I have had no problem watching on 3G the live video feed on the BBC sport website for football scores updates, or the live feed for match of the day on the BBC sport website on. However since last week I have been unable to do so as I keep receiving "media selection request failed" messages whenever I try to access the live sportsday football video feed on the BBC Sport website. However Iplayer and video clips work fine, but live video does not on 3G. It worked fine for the the last month until now so why has there been a change?

  • Comment number 44.

    I have samsung tablet and for last 10 days can no longer get news live channel streaming
    Instead i get media selection request failed error
    Can you advise why
    Its very annoying.....

  • Comment number 45.

    On my Samsung Galaxy S with Android 2.3 and Flash Player 11.1 iPlayer and BBC News app content plays ok, but using a mobile browser to view video on the main website produces "media selection request failed" messages. However, if I use the Dolphin browser with the User Agent set to Desktop then video plays okay.

  • Comment number 46.

    I am a regular user of the BBC I Player my question is on persistent picture jumping when pausing & restarting a progremme. This has been happening for a week now why ?

  • Comment number 47.

    Hi

    I have an Andorid HTC Desire S - plays BBC1 BBC2 etc etc absolutely fine on WiFi

    but for some reason when I try to get BBCNEWS playing in a WatchNow from the WiFi default mode it defaults to BBCiplayer and then says stream failed ?

    I'm sure I used to get BBC News playing Live - has something chaged ? or am I doing something wrong

    Thanks

  • Comment number 48.

    Like other posts I to have the Galaxy TAB and receive the error "Media Selection request Failed" when trying to view LIVE BBC News Channel. Has anyone had any response from the BBC?

  • Comment number 49.

    Forwarding my 4.0 (ICS) device to the website is bad. I'm a phone not a tablet.
    Please fix. It's unusable like this

  • Comment number 50.

    Recently acquired Android Tablet with Ice Cream Sandwich OS. Unable to run BBC iPlayer.Sound is fine,but video goes nowhere. Have installed Adobe Flash 11.1,also tried various browsers without success. Should l be able to run this app?

  • Comment number 51.

    Using Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 - All BBC iPlayer programmes have lip-sync problems with mismatch of up to about a second, making the programmes unwatchable.

    Latest version of Flash is installed.

  • Comment number 52.

    Flash was the obvious choice for cross platform at the time of iplayers design, but the landscape even within adobe has changed with linux and android flash updates now set to a 5 years maximum. It would be good if the BBC moved all their services onto HTML 5 video and dumped flash. Hopefully vp8/ogg rather than or as well as mp4 too. Chips in mobile devices might have chips for mp4 currently but it's a pointlessly expensive technology and a barrier otherwise.

    The good thing is vp8/ogg html5 video is not going anywhere and will not rise in cost of usage as Google have declared especially legally. The bad news is Apple refusing to cater for the open vp8/ogg although 60% of users desktop browsers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_web_browsers) label open video like ogg/vp8 their preffered choice. Any app can of course freely use vp8 and Apple should be swepped aside.

    For Linux users at the moment, my Dual core nvidia 6600GT TV system which can play Retail games like Doom 3 at full settings struggles with HD full screen browser based flash as Adobe Flash is especially inefficient at playing video on Linux. Adobe Air is no longer supported on Linux too, so Iplayer Desktop is out.

    If you use tools that violate the terms of service despite deleting the files immediately (and so not being technically illegal) which download the videos and play them in a media player. The video works fine in HD on Linux in a rather old system with 1.6Ghz single core and Nvidia FX5200 that couldn't even run Doom 3 at all. These tools will also spike BBCs servers bandwidth, especially if the whole file fails to download.

  • Comment number 53.

    I think the BBC iplayer is a wonderful app offering live streaming which I have used often on my HTC Desire S running 2.3. I look forward to the fix to make it work on my android 4.x tablet.

    For those worried about streaming content over 3G when they only want to use WiFi, its simple.... turn off your mobile network connection!

 

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