At first glance you may question why BBC Media Player app exists. You'd be right to. The answer lies - like so many questions of digital media playback on mobile devices - in the torturous saga otherwise known as 'Flash'. Adobe recently stopped supporting its Flash Player plug-in for Android, which meant that the all-important iPlayer service was left high and dry. See also: Best Android apps.
In steps BBC Media Player to play iPlayer content. This means you have to install iPlayer as well as Media Player, which seems like a retrograde step. But when you consider the bounty of great free content to which the iPlayer offers access it feels like a small price to play.
BBC Media Player is also an inbetween solution. It exists to provide access to BBC content for those using Android 4.1 Jelly Bean on their smartphones or tablets, as well as those on older versions of Android, specifically 2.3 Gingerbread. Thus the majority of Android smartphones and Android tablets is covered. BBC Media Player also works for both the iPlayer website as well as via this app, meets the Beeb's stringent security obligations, and minimises the change to the current infrastructure. (It's a pain to have to install it, but it works as seemlessly as could be expected.)
Using BBC Media Player: no news is good news
There's not a great deal to notice here. When you boot Media Player you go into a splash screen that encourages you to launch iPlayer:
Do so and iPlayer launches. To all intents and purposes you are using iPlayer as before, but the Media Player is the shell within which you are operating. This shouldn't have too much of an impact on battery life - on our Nexus 7 the two apps in concert used around 5MB or RAM, and were seen by the device as a single process. This is, in essence, the same as happened in the good old days (yes - I'm nostalgic for a simpler iPlayer).
The BBC promises that 'other applications and websites' will follow, making Media Player more than just an iPlayer enabler, but for now that is simply what it is. (Try as we might, we could find no way of playing back other media files via BBC Media Player). In our testing of BBC content playback was pretty seemless where we had a decent connection. Again, much the same as you will have found previously when using the plain old iPlayer app or website.
One thing that is missing but is available in other iPlayer apps is the ability to download content for offline viewing. The BBC says this will be available to Android users in 'the coming months'.
BBC Media Player: Specs
- Google Android 2.2-4.1
- Google Android 2.2-4.1
BBC Media Player is unobtrusive, free, and it works. This means that iPlayer is available to most Android users, that can only be a good thing.