The BBC have released a new way of securely playing BBC video and audio content on Android devices – BBC Media Player. Their blog post states “I want to reassure you that Android is an important platform for us”.
If that suggests that they expect some criticism from Android users they will not be disappointed… Unlike the BBC iPlayer app for iPad and iPhone which lets you download TV to watch later, Media Player for Android still has no download capability.
The BBC state “Full Programme downloads will be coming to the BBC iPlayer Android app in the coming months, but I can’t provide a date at this time”.
Unfortunately the new BBC Media Player uses the same poor quality streaming format and bitrates as the old iPlayer app. Even at the highest settings, streamed video is still a long way off HD quality – it’s acceptable on a phone but very pixelated on a 7” or larger tablet – the quality of streams provided to the iOS app is far superior.
Another common complaint of the iPlayer app was lack of sync between audio and video – in my testing (and feedback from other users) this is still a major issue. There is also no background audio i.e. you can’t turn the screen off when listening to a radio programme.
The new BBC Media Player uses a captive Adobe Air runtime within it instead of relying on a Flash Player plugin. According to the BBC, Adobe’s strategic decision to abandon support for the Flash Player plugin is responsible for the need to create a new player:
“In the end, Flash was still the best choice of media format for us to use. And the only practical technology for us to play this format back on Android is Adobe Air”.
Additional App – To use the existing BBC iPlayer app, Android users will have to install the new Media Player app as well (with integrated Adobe Air) – requiring two apps to do the job of one may make future development and support more complex than it needs to be.
Compatibility – The new app requires an ARMv7 processor so is no longer compatible with older ARMv6 devices.
User Ratings – BBC Media Player currently has poor ratings and reviews – 2.1 stars out of 5. These are even worse than the iPlayer app which itself had very average ratings – 3.1 out of 5.
Download – Download and more info on the new BBC Media Player Android app from Google Play here.