BBC iPlayer now working on iPhone... almost

 On Friday, the BBC quietly launched a beta version of its iPlayer service for the Apple iPhone. The iPlayer software for PC already allows UK re

On Friday, the BBC quietly launched a beta version of its iPlayer service for the Apple iPhone.

The iPlayer software for PC already allows UK residents to download any BBC programmes shown in last week and watch them at their leisure, and the immensely successful browser-based service allows Linux and Mac users to stream the same content. (The BBC saw 11m streams in January, apparently - closing in YouTube UK's 20m and well ahead of ITV's 2m).

But without Flash or Windows Media support, users of the iPhone - and its more popular brother the iPod Touch - have been unable to access the BBC iPlayer service.

Fortunately, that's now been remedied - like YouTube, the BBC has re-encoded its videos in Quicktime-compatible format (probably H.264, but it's hard to tell). Head along to the BBC iPlayer site (bbc.co.uk/iplayer) on an iPhone or Touch and you'll be redirected to the beta service. Sadly the front-end hasn't been optimised for the small screen, but click on the programme you wanna watch and it opens up full screen using Quicktime.

Image and sound quality is excellent, but I struggled to get anything to play - most vids were unavailable and those I could access only played for a couple of minutes before the Safari application crashed. But hey, this is a beta version, so we'll forgive some teething troubles.

More frustrating is that iPlayer on iPhone is Wi-Fi streaming only, so you'll have to be sitting near a hotspot when you want to watch something. Which makes the whole shebang a little pointless... except, of course, now that Apple has its own time-limited video DRM there's no reason that, in the future, the BBC couldn't allow full downloads to watch when you're on the move.

Beeb's on FAQ page even hints at full downloads: "You can Click to Play (stream) any of the programmes available, but you cannot download at present."

At present, hey? Watch this space...