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BBC Finally Launches Long-Overdue iPlayer Download Feature on Android

By September 7, 2013 No Comments

Android users can now finally download iPlayer programmes for offline viewing

In case you haven’t already heard, the BBC this week finally launched the download feature for its Android iPlayer app. But why did it take so long?

Up until now, the vast majority of mobile device users – who use Android – have been unable to make use of this useful feature, so those jetting off on long-haul flights or heading off to the gym have had to make do with other video content, or content downloaded from other catch-up services outside of the BBC, whilst the download feature is only available to the minority of users using devices made by just one manufacturer: Apple.

iplayer reviews

Overwhelmingly negative reviews of the iPlayer app for Android – hopefully the scales will start to tilt the other way now that downloads are available

It doesn’t take much Googling to see the ridiculous fiasco that has been going on for months (years, even?) and the complaints from irate Androiders, who immediately and very easily discredited all the poor excuses coming out of the BBC.

The BBC’s lame argument all along has been that due to the “fragmentation” of the Android world and the higher number of devices, it’s harder to develop for it. They constantly wheeled out pointless analogies about cheap and unreliable devices made in Chinese backstreets also being able to run Android, loosely implying that in order to comply with their Royal Charter they’d need to support those as well. No-one fell for that argument; whilst it’s true that there are many more Android devices than Apple devices, the number of popular Android devices is much smaller indeed, so why couldn’t they just support those first and then assess demand for others? The Galaxy S2 (if updated to ICS), S3 and S4 are all hugely popular and could be seen as Android equivalents to the iPhone 4, iPhone 4s and iPhone 5. Likewise Nexus 7 as an equivalent to the iPad Mini, etc. etc.

Well – it seems to be that’s what they’ve done after all, but just many, many moons too late. And, as is sensible, they’ve only released the feature for Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) and above. Which, if you ask me, is perfectly reasonable because extra development time shouldn’t be put into supporting legacy software unless the time required is minimal. So why did they keep mentioning Froyo and Gingerbread in their excuses, claiming they’d have to support those too, and then go and not support them afterall? It makes no sense.

Well, it does make sense to some extent – it just goes further to underline the BBC’s obvious bias towards Apple. Take a look at BBC News’s output with regards to stories about Apple (overwhelmingly positive) and stories about Android (overwhelmingly negative). Now, don’t get me wrong I’ve always loved the BBC and all that they do, but as a biased Apple-disliker myself I try to be objective in my assessment of the BBC’s coverage but it still appears to be very pro-Apple. Just this week Rory Cellan-Jones wrote a blog post in which he embedded a video of him conducting a very cynical interview of a Samsung executive regarding the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, seemingly doubting the notion of smartwatches in general (which on its own is fair enough) and almost trying to trip the poor guy up, yet in the text of the blog post he goes on to lavish more undeserved praise on Apple (“its iWatch may end up defining this new market“). I’m all for interviewers playing devils-advocate and/or asking difficult questions, but the questions were less specific to Samsung’s particular device and more a doubt of the product category in general, yet then going on to automatically love anything that has an Apple badge on it.

So, back the the iPlayer… I wonder how many extra iPads were sold instead of Android tablets because of the missing download feature on Android? With one simple feature omission by the BBC, they helped their friends Apple make a lot more money. Or am I just being over cynical? Let me know what you think in the comments…

Paul Freeman-Powell

Paul Freeman-Powell

Paul (@paulfp) is the main presenter of the award-winning Switched On Network YouTube Channel, which covers a variety of interesting topics usually relating to his love of technology and all things geeky. He also founded and runs Innobella Media, where he leads in all aspects of video production, video editing, sound & lighting. A father of 3 children including twins, his hobbies used to include photography, playing the drums and cycling. With a degree in Modern European Languages, Paul speaks French, Spanish and a little bit of Italian, and holds dual British & Irish citizenship.

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