Work around solution to blocky pixelated videos on the Android BBC iPlayer app
The BBC iplayer service is a great way for those of us based in the UK to catch up on recently shown BBC TV and radio programmes as well as some archived shows.
Unfortunately the latest BBC iplayer app for Android seems to be having an issue that the videos play back very pixelated on some Android devices since the BBC brought in the requirement to sign in to view shows.
I was having this exact issue with an Android jellybean tablet I have connected to my TV to use as a media streamer. Whenever I tried to play back videos from the iplayer app they would always be very blocky and pixelated. A quick internet search shows a FAQ page on the BBC iplayer website related to this issue which says:
When you select a programme to play, we serve the lowest bit rate (quality) first. During the following seconds, we’ll amend the quality version based on the connection speed we detect. That way you get the best quality version possible, without the need to change any settings yourself.
…. Meanwhile, rewinding to the beginning of the programme once the video quality has improved should allow you to watch the programme in full without any change in quality.
Unfortunately for me the video quality rarely improves and sometimes actually gets worse while continuing to watch the programme, so I cannot use their suggested fix of rewinding when the picture quality improves.
I also eliminated my internet connection as being the problem. I am able to stream the same show from my laptop and smartphones in high quality from iplayer though the same internet connection. I can also watch HD Youtube videos from the Android tablet without issue so know that the tablet is getting a good enough WiFI signal. So the issue is definitely related to the iPlayer Android app.
I tried removing and reinstalling the app and clearing the app cache etc. but no improvement in the video quality. So my next thought was to by-pass the iPlayer app entirely.
I looked to see if there was any alternative iPlayer apps but none that I could find so I thought I would try to see if I could get the iPlayer website to work on the Android tablet. It wouldn’t work with the stock Android browser and my tablet only has 512mb of RAM so i didn’t want to go for a full blown browser such as Chrome so i looked for a lightweight web browser. I found a browser called Lightening browser which is fast and lightweight. I installed this from the Play store navigated to the iPlayer website and tried streaming a TV show from there rather than using the iplayer app.
I clicked to view a TV show from the iplayer website and it loaded it up the BBC media player app, so initially I thought it was going to have the same blocky issue as the iplayer app. But to my surprise the video quality was as good as it was from my phone and laptop. Not sure if its HD quality but it is certainly as good as a Freeview SD video picture.
I have tested it for several days and I have never experienced the blocky pixelated video using the iplayer website and BBC media player app combo, but as soon as I switched back to the iplayer app i started getting blocky videos again.
You do need to ensure that you have the BBC media player app installed to use this work around method, but both it and the Lightening browser are free to download from the Playstore so it won’t cost you any extra. If you are still experiencing blocky video even using this method please let me know by leaving a comment below.