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How to get BBC iPlayer on the iPad

BBC iPlayer doesn't support the iPad's browser, and the iPad's browser doesn't play iPlayer's Flash video. But, if you're willing to accept low video quality, there is a way to get your catch-up kicks

The iPad may look like a giant iPhone, but its browser leaves Web sites in no doubt about what device you're using -- and that means no BBC iPlayer, even if you're a paid-up licensee surfing on British shores. But there's still a way to get the iPlayer to work on the iPad, although it's a far from perfect method.

There are several alternative browsers for the iPhone in the App Store, and you can also install them on the iPad. We tested the free Sphere Lite and Atomic Web Browser Lite, and 59p Perfect Browser 3 (iTunes links), and all were able to bring up the iPhone version of iPlayer on our iPad, and play radio and video streams.

Being iPhone apps, you'll have to use the 2x zoom feature to get video to fill the iPad's screen, and that makes for shoddy video quality. But it's still watchable -- in a dial-up, YouTube kind of way -- and at least it doesn't matter for the radio content.  

If you use the iPad's built-in Safari browser to visit the iPlayer home page, you'll get served the version for the desktop browser -- and that means Flash video that you can't see on the iPad. Go straight to the mobile version of the site, which works a treat on the iPhone, and you'll get a roundhouse kick right in the kisser, with a message saying "your phone does not support BBC iPlayer".

Previously, a rumoured BBC iPlayer app failed to materialise, and an app called Rewatch that promised to allow us to download iPlayer content to the iPhone from BBC RSS feeds also failed to arrive in the App Store.

According to a post on the iPlayer forum, iPlayer was treating the iPad as a valid device until 19 April. But those halcyon days are over, until the Beeb changes its mind or Apple gives the iPad browser a way to pretend it's actually on the iPhone. In the meantime, if we're desperate for a catch-up on the curling or a nubbin of news, at least we have a workaround.