BBC iPlayer on mobile: a new version and Adobe Flash 10.1 streaming on all Android 2.2 phones
Last week we launched the mobile version of the new BBC iPlayer website which Anthony Rose announced a few weeks ago.
BBC iPlayer on mobile adapts the new BBC iPlayer website design to the small screen and integrates a new Favourites tab for easy access to all your favourite programmes.
You can add any programme or series to your Favourites. If you add a series to favourites, BBC iPlayer will automatically add all new episodes in that series as soon as they are available in iPlayer so you will never miss your favourite programmes.
We are always looking to deliver the best BBC iPlayer experience on mobile. The new design aims to improve the user experience by introducing a cleaner layout with a simpler, easier to use interface.
As mobile phones become more and more powerful and web video technologies are extended to mobile platforms, we can offer an even higher quality mobile playback experience.
We've adapted the Flash based embedded media player (EMP) that you see right across the BBC website to work on the small screen and created a 400 kbps Flash stream to provide a really good playback experience.
First off, we did some development work to scale down the Flash based embedded media player to fit the mobile screen and tweaked the playback controls to mobile friendly touch/tap input rather than the mouse click controls found on a PC.
We then embedded the Flash player into the BBC iPlayer on mobile webpage to enable playback in full screen and on the page.
Adobe did a lot of work to optimise the Flash 10.1 experience and get the BBC iPlayer on mobile playback quality looking really good. However, the 400kbps encode requires a powerful mobile phone processor and a Wi-Fi connection to ensure a smooth viewing experience. This means that only newer, more powerful phones connected via Wi-Fi can support the Flash 10.1 streaming experience.
Some commenters have objected to the BBC's use of Flash to deliver this kind of service. However, using Adobe Flash 10.1 streaming on mobile delivers significant infrastructure efficiencies for the BBC as we use our existing video and audio encoding plant to create the streams. We don't need to install any new kit or set up any new servers. We just use what we already have to bring a higher quality BBC iPlayer on mobile experience to mobile devices.
So, if you've got an Android 2.2 phone or can upgrade your Android device to 2.2 then point your phone's web browser to www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer to access the new Flash 10.1 streaming experience.
You'll need to download and install the free Adobe Flash 10.1 player from the Android Market. This is easy to do - the installation can be initiated from the BBC iPlayer on mobile webpage.
Note that the BBC Trust is conducting a review of the BBC's plans to develop smartphone apps. The BBC will therefore not be launching any Android apps or apps for any other smartphone in the UK pending the outcome of the BBC Trust review. This version of BBC iPlayer is web browser based, rather than an Android app.
David Madden is Executive Product Manager for BBC iPlayer on Mobile.