BBC iPlayer 2.0 review

The BBC iPlayer 2.0 app for iPhone and iPad introduces a great new feature: WiFi downloads. This enables you to download television programs via WiFi and store them locally on your iOS device. Our review puts this new feature to the test 

Ever since the BBC iPlayer app launched in 2011 (and prior to that the BBC’s compelling iOS-optimised website) it’s been a great source of content for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad owners.

With its large catalogue of television programs and radio shows, all streamed without commercials, the BBC iPlayer app enables you to watch any show broadcast in the last seven days on the move.

The last update to BBC iPlayer finally enabled users to stream television shows over a 3G connection, removing the requirement to be connected to a WiFi router. This made the app much more mobile, but the quality when using a 3G connection leaves something to be desired, and of course this doesn’t help out iPod touch or iPad WiFi owners on the move without 3G connections.

Enter the latest update with its newfound ability to download programs and cache them locally on an iOS device for up to 30 days. Downloading is simple enough process, click the Download button underneath the main player window and it’ll start to store the program locally. You can then click play when you’re out and about and it’ll play the cached version rather attempt a 3G download.

The implementation is pretty good. You can request to download a program while browsing in 3G, and it’ll wait until a WiFi connection is present before starting the download.

See also: WiFi and Connectivity reviews

You can start watching shows while they are downloading, and you can always still watch shows in 3G when on the move and wait for a WiFi download when you return. Programs only download when the app is open, however, and it doesn’t initiate downloads in the background. 

An option in the BBC iPlayer app Settings enables you to choose between Standard or Higher Quality Downloads. This typically doubles the amount of space (and consequently time required to download each episode). But it does deliver noticeably higher quality video playback, which is especially different on the iPad.

Normal quality downloads of shows are around 300MB, whereas higher quality ones are around 600MB. A recent episode of Doctor Who (Asylum of the Daleks) took up 270MB in standard definition or 527 in high definition mode. 

The BBC iPlayer 2.0 app has a new Downloads tab that enables you to view a Queue of programmes, or a Downloaded list. You can pause, or remove downloads from within the App, or remove all downloaded content using the  

The new BBC iPlayer 2.0 app has just become a lot more useful. Especially for anybody going on a long-haul flight, who’ll find the pre-downloaded television shows on the iPad much more entertaining than the in-flight system. Probably the only thing that’s missing is that you can’t download radio shows, only television shows. While these are easy enough to stream in 3G, it’d be nice to be able to download them for iPod touch owners, or people who use an iPhone in an environment without cellular connection.

OUR VERDICT

The BBC iPlayer app should be a stock download for all iOS device owners in the UK, and the latest update makes it even more useful. The ability to cache shows for 30 days will make it a vital component for anybody going on long journeys without reliable connection, and also make it less data intensive for watching television shows. The only improvements now would be the ability to subscribe to a series and download automatically, perhaps in the background. But this is a great update.

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