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iPlayer on Android 4.2 'before Xmas', as BBC vows to fix app

The Beeb has moved to reassure Android fans that it still cares about them, promising 'feature parity' with iOS.

The BBC has moved to reassure phone and tablet owners who are annoyed at the patchy iPlayer Android app, vowing to bring an update for Android 4.2 Jelly Bean before Santa makes his rounds, and the same features that iPhone customers enjoy.

On its official blog, Auntie outlines a plan to improve playback on Android gadgets, that will involve grouping devices into "classifications based on their capabilities."

That seems to mean low-powered devices will get lower quality video streaming, while smart phones with larger screens will get the same high quality playback that iOS devices already enjoy. Faster connections like Wi-Fi or 4G will also mean better quality video, and a high-quality encode when using Wi-Fi is due before Christmas.

The BBC also vows to get iPlayer running smoothly on Android phones or tablets running version 4.2 Jelly Bean before Christmas. Currently the Beeb lists Android 4.2 glitches as a known issue, so if you're struggling to get the streaming service working on something like the Google Nexus 4 or Nexus 7, then hopefully those errors will be ironed out soon.

Android 4.1 became officially supported in October. The BBC says that a "richer" tablet experience on gadgets like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD will also be ready for Christmas morning.

Finally, the nation's broadcaster wants the same features on Android as there are on iOS. Features like offline viewing are beyond the reach of 'droid gadgeteers for now, but the BBC says its "investments in engineering" that may mean both platforms' apps move forward at the same pace in the future.

The BBC cites fragmentation as the reason for delays thus far, saying that, "Android as a platform is becoming increasingly complex and fragmented with a huge difference between video playback capabilities across the 1,500+ Android devices."

Fragmentation is something the Beeb has citied before, when I spoke to an iPlayer exec about why Android fans were left waiting. Sky spouts the same line regarding the lack of features on its Android Sky Go app, saying, "The reality is that developing for Android throws up a number of additional challenges when compared to working on iOS devices."

The iPlayer Android app has 4,797 one-star reviews on Google Play, with one recent commenter saying, "The quality is so appalling even on 'high quality' setting, it is embarrassing".

Should organisations like Sky and the BBC be let off the hook because of Android fragmentation? Or is that a poor excuse for dodgy apps? Have your say in the comments or on our Facebook wall.

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