BBC iPlayer Android app updated for Jelly Bean 4.2

The BBC is to respond to the growing popularity of Android tablets such as the Google Nexus 7 by re-engineering its BBC iPlayer Android app and BBC Media Player application.

Looking to capitalise on the increased TV absoption rates around the festive period, the British Broadcasting Corporation has said it will also be updating the BBC iPlayer Android app to run on the Google Nexus 4 launched Android 4.2 Jellybean OS before Christmas.

The larger, seven-inch screen size of devices such as the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google Nexus 7 means that the apps need to support these properly along with other screen sizes.

“The Android platform is extremely important to the BBC and our audience, and engineering for it requires an ongoing commitment,” BBC Future Media’s Dave Price said writing on the BBC Internet Blog this week. “To that end I have a significant engineering team working on both the Android media playback experience and BBC iPlayer application on Android devices. We have three goals: Improve the playback experience. Achieve feature parity between iOS and Android. Support a variety of screen sizes.”

Price adds that starting before Christmas and continuing over the next few months the BBC will have a series of releases “that will make the BBC iPlayer experience on Android devices more appealing and engaging.”

Among the plans is an updated user interface for the BBC iPlayer Android app. The challenges include coping with the increasingly complex and fragmented Android platform, as there are more than 1,500 types of devices, using various versions of the OS, each with different video playback capabilities.

Additional problems were caused when Adobe stopped supporting the Flash Player plug-in for Android, and so the BBC had to issue its Media Player app to work around it.

The BBC says it groups Android devices into classifications based on capabilities, so that ones without advanced video playback will receive lower quality video streams.

It means that the higher quality video encodes will be available to the more advanced Android phones and tablets. Price says the experience will be “along the lines of those on iOS devices.”

Another of the BBC’s pre-Christmas updates will be to enable devices on Wi-Fi connections to access a higher video quality than those connected to 3G. A better quality encode will also be available for 4G users, although this update may be coming later.

The broadcaster reports that its new Media Player app for Android has been downloaded to more than one million Android phones and tablets since its launch in September.

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