ITV Player on Android hands-on

ITV Player has just landed on Android and we’ve been playing with it to see if it can add a little excitement to your mobile TV watching.

The app arrives on devices running on Android 2.2 and above, including Android 3 devices. Although it is principally restricted to UK devices, we’ve already seen that the app is available outside of the Android Market, so a little hunting will offer you the app if you can’t find it in the Market.

ITV Player runs on Adobe Air, so if you don’t already have it installed a quick prompt will get you set-up and running. Then you're all set to explore the delights of ITV on your Android device as long as you are connected to a Wi-Fi network.

  

The layout is simple and it is a case of what you see on the front page is pretty much what you get. The app is divided into three sections: Don’t Miss, Programmes By Channel and Most Watched.

Both the Don’t Miss highlights and Most Watched present themselves as horizontal scrolling lists, so you can swipe across the thumbnails and select a programme you want to watch. Programmes By Channel lets you pick from ITV1, 2, 3 and 4 (with ITV1 reportedly being missing in some areas), which then drops down to present another horizontal list of programmes on that channel.

If you don’t fancy browsing through these lists, you can get directly to what you want using the A-Z or Search functions. Make your selection and after a short delay, you’ll be treated to a little advertising before your programme starts.

The app is designed to run in portrait on your phone and will only switch to landscape once a video is playing. Honeycomb users will find that the app natively displays in landscape making better use of the screen space, so it looks as though ITV have considered that there will be phone and tablet users, which is a positive gesture: the BBC iPlayer app doesn’t run correctly on Honeycomb at present.

    

The first thing that struck us was that the selection of programmes isn’t especially engaging. If you are a user of ITV Player you’ll already be familiar with this situation as the same applies to their browser-based offering. Bascially, bought-in content isn’t offered, so you can’t watch Quantum Leap (I’m sure Ziggy is relieved) and yes, you don’t get to watch Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, both of which aired on Tuesday.  

If you are a soap fan you’ll find Corrie on offer along with Emmerdale, but outside of that you have the ITV regulars of things like The Jeremy Kyle Show and This Morning and we’re not sure whether this is the sort of catch-up TV you’re really after.

Scott and Bailey is perhaps a better offering, and you do get regulars from ITV’s “other” channels, so you’ll be able to watch Hornblower, Poirot and The Sweeney. Essentially it is a selection programmes from the last 7 days on TV.

Talking of browsers, although ITV Player did make some adjustment for our Motorola Xoom, we found that using Dolphin Browser HD (identifying as a desktop browser) will serve up the web-based version of ITV Player just as well, so the value of the app is questionable for tablet users. If you use the Android browser, ITV Player will identify as an Android device and redirect you to download the app.

Finally we come to the question of quality. The FAQ of the ITV Player app tells us that the video quality will differ depending on the screen size of the device you are using. Having watched both on mobile phones and tablets, we don’t dispute that, but the quality isn’t especially high. You don’t get to set the quality yourself like you do in the BBC iPlayer app and it would be nice, if you have the bandwidth and a device that will handle high-quality streaming video, to be able to bump up the settings.

Overall we welcome ITV Player to the fold, but we’re not especially excited about the run of regular programmes on offer. Soap fans might find it useful to catch up on a bit of Corrie, but we suspect that ITV Player will come into its own when programmes like X-Factor are on.