BBC iPlayer for iPad hands-on

Having broken the news earlier that the BBC would be launching a BBC iPlayer for iPad app this week, it’s only fitting that Pocket-lint is one of the first sites to bring you a hands-on experience of the new application, now that it’s available to all on iTunes in the UK.

The concept of BBC iPlayer for iPad is that you get the excellent iPlayer features in one app, so you don’t have to mess around with the iPad browser and the BBC website. Apps, after all, are normally a better experience, and here the BBC is trying to prove that.

Fire up the app and you’re presented with a colourful tiled screen of the hot stuff on the BBC that you should watch.

In the case of our test, that's Madagascar (not the Dreamworks cartoon, but the nature documentary), Panorama, Nurse Jackie, How TV ruined your Life, Come Fly with Me, and A History of Ancient Britain.

If any of those take your fancy, it's a case of pressing your finger on the image and then pressing play on the following page. Seconds later (on a good Wi-Fi connection) and the show is playing with the option to have it in Standard or HQ (essentially high definition) quality. Unfortunately, try to connect it to 3G at present and you receive a message saying "You must connect to a Wi-Fi or supported mobile data network to play content". We're not sure what "supported mobile data network" would work, we certainly couldn't find one.

Mind you, it'd munch through a 3G data plan like it was a packet of Fruit Pastilles, so maybe that's for the best.

Like the BBC iPlayer on the web, each page has further information on it, if you need wooing, and details on when it was first broadcast, what station it was on and other such details.

If you like the sound of it, but haven’t got time right at that moment you can mark it as favourite to watch later.

What you can’t do, however, is mark it as a favourite to watch later when you are not on a Wi-Fi network, like on the aeroplane or a train.

The lack of a save or buffer option is a real blow as we could have seen the iPlayer app being massive for storing up your favourite BBC programmes to take on long trips or abroad, for when there’s nothing to do apart from watch foreign TV.

Still, annoying missing elements aside, there is more to the app than just watching what the BBC highlights on TV.

You can listen to what the BBC highlights on the radio.

The tile format and suggestions are the same, but it's good to see the BBC’s radio output here as well - you can’t beat a good afternoon play on Radio 4 now can you?

If you’re not into the “Featured” shows you can see what’s “Most Popular”, as well as getting “For You” recommendations based on what you listen or watch.

Beyond the highlights you can dip into the BBC programme guide to see what’s on right now, and if it’s been iPlayer-ed then you can watch it. It also offers a live streaming service for your favourite BBC channels so you can double it up as another TV in your bedroom or kitchen, just by clicking on the relevant show in the electronic programme guide.

Speaking of which, the EPG is simple enough to use, with left and right scroll options, and if, like U2, you still can’t find what you're looking for, there is always the comprehensive search option that lets you either browse categories like “Lifestyle & Leisure” or “Sport” or just cut to the chase and type “Top Gear”.

Overall, from our hands-on play with the new app, the experience is great, as long as you are on a Wi-Fi connection. At present, it just won't allow you to connect via 3G.

If the BBC had given offline viewing capabilities to this app, it might have been a reason to buy an iPad just to enjoy the finest BBC content wherever you happen to be. Alas, it doesn’t.



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