[Mobile.AI] Fw: Review of the BBC iPlayer for the iPhone and the iPad

taha haaziq tahahaaziq at gmail.com
Thu Jul 4 06:02:58 EDT 2013

Review of the BBC iPlayer for the iPhone and the iPad

From: Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) 
Sent: Thursday, July 04, 2013 5:02 AM
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Subject: Review of the BBC iPlayer for the iPhone and the iPad

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Review of the BBC iPlayer for the iPhone and the iPad
03-07-2013 03:28 PM BST

3 July 2013

This app was tested on 20 June 2013

This app was tested on an iPhone 5 running iOS 6.1.4 and an iPad 2 running iOS 6.0.1

At the time of testing the app version was

I am in my early twenties and I have no light perception, so text-to-speech, tactile and Braille solutions are a part of my everyday life. 

It is really common for people to catch-up on their favourite TV programmes on their tablets and smart phones using apps. As a blind person I am able to do just that using the text-to-speech software on my iPad and my iPhone. I have been using iOS products for a number of years, so therefore I am really confident with the gesture-based screen reader. 

I generally use the BBC iPlayer iOS app to catch-up on any missed TV programmes. While the app is usable, it does have some limitations for me as a blind user.

Information about the app
The BBC iPlayer for iPhone and iPad can be downloaded accessibly from the Apple App store using VoiceOver. The app is free to download.
Both versions of the app enable the user to:

  a.. Browse the TV and radio sections 
  b.. Download programmes and watch them offline 
  c.. Add programmes to their favourites and create a personalised list 
  d.. The iPad version offers a TV guide as well as the features found in the iPhone version. 
Setting up the app
There was nothing specific to set up in the app in order to use the features.

Using the app
When I had downloaded the app, I performed the following tasks:

  a.. Browsed the TV and Radio sections 
  b.. Accessed my favourite and downloaded programmes 
  c.. Played a TV programme and listened to a radio show 
  d.. Browsed the TV guide on the iPad. 
The TV and Radio tab
The TV and Radio tabs are mostly accessible. It is possible to use the search function with no difficulty. When a programme is selected by either browsing or searching for it, the layout of the screen showing the programme information is the same. On this screen, information such as the programme name, synopsis, duration and options to download or favourite the programme are shown. However, for a VoiceOver user, it is not possible to view the duration of the programme. Even though VoiceOver says 'label duration' it does not read the duration of the programme.

When I was moving through a list of programmes, I learned that for a sighted person, double tapping the programme name instantly started playing the programme, it was possible to skip the details of the programme. As a VoiceOver user, I had to triple tap the programme name in order to get this to work.

When I was viewing the programme list in landscape mode, I had to swipe across the screen with three fingers in order to move between the programmes as only one programme was displayed at a time.

Using the playback controls when watching a programme wasn't as straight forward. When the programme started to play, I thought that there were no playback controls, but double tapping the screen enabled me to view the controls (this was announced by VoiceOver as : "double tap to show or hide video controls). I found that I was not able to forward or rewind a programme. There was a slider at the bottom of the screen (one showing the time elapsed and the other showing the current level of percentage). Double tapping and sliding my finger on both of these items did not do anything. A sighted person was able to move the current position of the programme when VoiceOver was switched off.

On the iPad version, even when the app is used in portrait mode, it is not possible to go through the list in one go. Using a 3 finger swipe across the screen, I had to move between a few pages to access the entire list of featured programmes.

The Favourites tab
The favourites section is really good in that if you favourite a programme which is in a series, the entire series is added to the favourites list. 

The layout of the programme information screen and the process of using the playback controls is the same as it is for the TV and Radio tabs.

The Downloads tab
In this section I was able to listen to and watch the programmes that I had downloaded. All features were accessible, excluding the areas identified earlier regarding the information screen and the playback controls.

The More tab
This section contained information such as parental controls and other settings and information about the app.

Differences on the iPad version
There were three significant differences that I found between the iPhone and iPad version. Firstly, the layout of the programme information screen on the iPad was really confusing for a VoiceOver user. Visually, the screen is split into 2 halves, with the programme list on the left hand side and the information of the programme on the right hand side. However, this was not distinguishable with VoiceOver. Consequently, while I was trying to read the details of a specific programme, VoiceOver was announcing other programme names as I was flicking through the screen.

The favourites tab was really difficult to access. For some reason VoiceOver would not read out the list of my favourite programmes. In order to know what they were, I had to double tap the item.

The final difference was that the iPad version has a TV guide. This is displayed in a grid form with buttons for each day at the top (Sunday-Saturday of current week) and the programmes listed in time order for the selected day. Programmes are displayed on multiple pages for one day, however, it is not immediately obvious to a VoiceOver user. I learned this when I swiped with three fingers and realised that I was on page three of five. On the left-hand side there is a list of channels, but VoiceOver does not acknowledge the presence of anything on the screen and simply makes a clicking noise to indicate that the area of the screen is blank.

Advantages and disadvantages
  a.. Gives the user access to a TV schedule and to download and watch their favourite programmes with no sighted support 
  b.. Attempts have been made at making it as accessible as possible. 
  a.. No audio described programmes 
  b.. It is not possible to access all programme information 
  c.. It is not possible to forward/rewind a programme while watching it without sighted support. 
Overall, this app is good for a VoiceOver user. However, the absence of audio described content and the fact that small pieces of information are missing for programme details really lets the app down. When it is compared to other catch-up apps such as 4oD and ITV player, this app is ahead in the way of accessibility as it has a simple layout which is easy to follow. I would recommend this app to other VoiceOver users because it really demonstrates how accessible an app could potentially be.

Any other comments
In order to improve the usability of this app for VoiceOver users, it is recommended that audio described content is included and that the information regarding programmes is set out in a clear and accessible way.

The BBC iPlayer app for iPhone and iPad enables the user to catch-up on the last 7 days of TV and Radio programmes that have been broadcast. When issues of accessibility are considered, the absence of audio description and the fact that it is not possible to access all the information of a programme or use all the playback controls with VoiceOver really let the app down. In the iPad version, the layout of the information hinders a VoiceOver user's chances of successfully accessing the programme information, the absence of item labelling in the favourites section and the absence of channel names in the TV guide are a huge barrier for those using this specific app version. Despite these issues, the app is ahead of other catch-up TV apps in the way of accessibility and it is for this reason that I would recommend other VoiceOver users to give the app a go.

Category: TV programmes and films
Published: 03/07/2013 18:30

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taha haaziq 

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