Hands on: BBC iPlayer for iPad review

BBC iplayer for iPad
The BBC's iPad iPlayer app is out, and it's good

After a year in the making, the BBC has finally begun rolling out its iPlayer apps, and first out of Television Centre's revolving doors is iPlayer for iPad.

The Android iPlayer app is already available for download (we're testing it while you read this), and an iPhone-friendly iPlayer app is due to follow at a later date.

For the moment, the iPad's iPlayer app is available only in the UK. A subscription-based app for the US App Store is on the way, but for us righteous, licence-paying Brits, the app is free to download and to use.

That said, it's also free if you're a BBC-hating TV licence-dodging shadow-dweller. After all, the Beeb has openly admitted that it doesn't have any kind of licence-enforcement strategy relating to its new mobile iPlayer apps.

Legally speaking though, you are required to have a TV licence to use the app for live TV streaming.

iplayer ipad

iPlayer app in use

The iPlayer iPad app itself is a masterpiece in simplicity. The content sits at the forefront at all times and the albeit slick-as-you-like interface sits very much under the surface. The on-demand offering is exactly the same as you'll find elsewhere, with TV shows available to stream for seven days after they were originally broadcast. There is no download option.

There are two main sections in the app - one for TV content and one for radio.

Each section has two sub-sections - a 'Featured' screen which showcases (debatably) the best shows currently available, a self-explanatory 'Most Popular' section as well as a 'For You' screen which seems to do nothing other than recommend the same shows you saw in the other two sections.

iplayer ipad

The 'For You' section presumably draws its content according to what it knows you've been watching in the past. However, we skimmed through a variety of sports-related shows and even after time passed and we restarted the app, the 'For You' section was still trying to make us watch episode one of Outcasts. Not a chance.

Other than that very minor issue which may well resolve itself over time, the iPad's iPlayer app is an absolute delight to use.

Touch a thumbnail and you're instantly given a few more details about the episode you've selected. One more press of the play button and the episode will play - it took an average of four seconds for the stream to buffer and start playing.

iplayer ipad

The quality of the video is first rate. It's not high definition, but on the iPad's screen it looked as good as you'd ever need it to be. Sound quality too was as good as you can hope to expect from a video streaming app.

It's also very easy to skip forward and back. Dragging the progress bar moves things on immediately and it only took a split second for the app to begin playing from the new position again.

iplayer ipad

iplayer ipad

iplayer ipad

Wi-Fi or 3G?

If your iPad is a 3G model, you'll be sorry to hear that the iPlayer app will not allow you to stream video over your mobile data network - at least not to start with.

You can browse the app over 3G, but as soon as you attempt to watch something you'll get a polite 'switch to Wi-Fi' message.

iplayer ipad

We attempted to trick the app by connecting it to a full-signal Galaxy S using Android's Mobile AP feature, but even that didn't work. It's possible that the BBC will eventually strike some deals with the mobile networks to allow iPlayer access over 3G, but that could be some way down the line.

James Rivington

James was part of the TechRadar editorial team for eight years up until 2015 and now works in a senior position for TR's parent company Future. An experienced Content Director with a demonstrated history of working in the media production industry. Skilled in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), E-commerce Optimization, Journalism, Digital Marketing, and Social Media. James can do it all.