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The BBC’s iPlayer service is not new to the iPad. You’ve long been able to catch up on the Beeb’s last seven days of TV and radio shows using the iPad’s web browser, but now there’s a dedicated app for the service. This is welcome news. The stand-alone application is more stable and user-friendly, and has a user interface designed specifically for Apple’s touchscreen device.
BBC iPlayer for iPad keeps things simple. It’s extremely user-friendly, and far easier to navigate than the web iPlayer, which can prove fiddly on an iPad. Check out our short video below.
From the home screen, you can browse TV or radio programmes, or shows you’ve assigned as personal favourites. The TV and Radio sections are subdivided into Featured shows, the current Most Popular selections and a category called For You, which is tailored to your tastes based on previous viewings. Naturally, you have to use the iPlayer for a while before this feature becomes useful. At first, it does little more than repeat what’s offered in the other two sections. Shows are also grouped according to genre, and you can search for a specific title.
A seven-day mini-EPG lets you find a particular programme according to its station and broadcast time. You can watch live broadcasts through this EPG, something that’s not possible through the web version of iPlayer using an iPad. Legally you must have a licence for watching live TV, though you can enjoy on-demand services without one. Find out more about your requirements here on the BBC Internet Blog.
Picture quality is as good as you could reasonably expect. High-quality streaming looks superb, but if your internet connection can’t cope with 1500kbps, you can downgrade to standard-quality viewing, which streams at 800kbps and is entirely acceptable. Audio quality is pretty impressive too given the size of the iPad’s speakers.
Development on BBC iPlayer for iPad is to continue. According to the BBC’s General Manager of Future Media & Technology Daniel Danker, the Corporation is to ‘build in more features throughout the year’, which is a good thing. It’s currently missing a few things we’d love to see implemented. You can’t download programmes for later viewing, which is a pity considering you can only stream video over a WiFi connection. Saving shows to watch on the train would be a real boon.
Also, only audio can be streamed through AirPlay, a restriction imposed by the current version of iOS. AirPlay video streaming for third-party apps is due to arrive with iOS 4.3, so hopefully BBC iPlayer for iPad will be updated to take advantage.
Despite these minor moans, BBC iPlayer for iPad is highly recommended. Its user interface is a joy to use, and on the UK iTunes store, it’s free, with a subscription-based service for the rest of the world in the pipeline. An excellently designed and well executed app that will only get better over time.
Available now as a free download, from Apple