BBC iPlayer iPad App ReviewWritten by John Thompson on February 21, 2011 · Filed under Review, Software
It’s been a long time coming, but the BBC iPlayer finally came to our iPads this month as a free application on the UK App Store! Following months of setbacks and blocking of the application by the BBC Trust, UK viewers are now finally able to catch up with BBC programs and watch live without being in front of a traditional computer or internet enabled TV.
Is the BBC iPlayer iPad App everything we’d hoped it would be? Does it make us want to watch Match of the Day on Apple’s tablet every Saturday night instead of on the big screen? Let’s check it out and see for ourselves, shall we?
There was no doubt that the iPlayer would be anything but a hit when it launched to the iPad and it’s great to have available when you’re not around a TV; after all, bringing such a service to a small device makes it a lot more mobile, but like any application it has it’s shortcomings.
The home screen is laid out in a similar fashion to the iPlayer website, with a grid layout presenting you with featured shows and episodes of both TV and radio depending on which section you’re viewing – you can easily switch between the two from the options at the bottom of the screen.
Video quality is really good, although I was disappointed to find that you have to be connected to a local Wi-Fi network in order to actually stream any content. You can only browse over 3G, which is a somewhat pointless exercise. I initially presumed that this was due to technical issues of streaming over a 3G network with limited bandwidth, but being the curious creature I am, I decided to do some investigative work on the matter.
With the help of a iPad jailbreak and a neat little application to trick iPlayer in to thinking I was connected to Wi-Fi when in fact I wasn’t, I tried my hand at streaming over my 3G network (well, I may as well make use of my 10GB quota!). As it turns out, the video streamed with no hiccups whatsoever, just as smooth as my Wi-Fi network. Unfortunately, it seems as though this limitation has been put in place to keep the mobile networks happy, and not because it’s technically difficult to stream over 3G. Shame on you, BBC.
Anyway, gripe over! For the most part, the application has been incredibly well designed, is easy to navigate, and seems very stable for an initial release – I haven’t experienced one crash yet, and I’ve been using it on and off for a good few days now.
I would like to see easier access to live content in a future update, as this is currently done on the same TV guide screen as all of your catchup television which makes it unnecessarily awkward with a few taps too many. Quick links to live TV or radio on the home screen would most certainly be a welcome addition.
If you don’t mind being limited to streaming over Wi-Fi and happen to be fond of the BBC’s programs, then grabbing the free BBC iPlayer iPad App is a no brainer. You can download it from the UK App Store, so get over there and let us know what you think in the comments!