BBC iPlayer boss: 'It will never be as easy to develop for Android as Apple'

BBC's iPlayer chief outlines the challenges that developers face in getting apps out to Android users, but concludes that this is "where the audience is."

BBC iPlayer on an Android-powered Samsung smartphone. Credit: BBC

Android may have a bigger market share of the smartphone and tablet market than Apple does, but apps are making their way onto iPhones and iPads faster because Android development requires more effort.

This claim was made by Daniel Danker, the BBC's head of the iPlayer app. Speaking to the BBC's technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, Danker offers a behind-the-scenes look at the difficulties associated with developing Android apps.

"If you look at the amount of energy we spend on Apple, it pales in comparison to what we spend on Android," he said, before going on to explain the reasons why.

"It's not just fragmentation of the operating system -- it is the sheer variety of devices. Before "Ice Cream Sandwich" [Android 4.0] most Android devices lacked the ability to play high quality video. If you used the same technology as we've always used for iPhone, you'd get stuttering or poor image quality. So we're having to develop a variety of approaches for Android."

While Android may have a larger share of the market than the Apple-branded competition, that market share is made up of a broad range of hardware running a handful of different versions of the Android operating system.

See also Why Microsoft is right to chase Android patent deals

In order to try to alleviate this problem, the BBC is taking the approach breaking down the hardware into subsets based on capability and screen size, and handling each group in a different way. The broadcaster is also continuing to use technologies such as Adobe Flash and Adobe Air to deliver content because "they provide the only means of playing video across the entire population of devices."

"We don't love the one-size-fits-all approach but we can't have an individual approach for each device, so we're going to find a middle ground."

Danker is resigned to the fact that Android is a much tougher platform to code for than iOS, but is committed to it nonetheless.

"It will never be as easy to develop for Android as Apple because of the variety of devices, but we're not upset about that - it's where the audience is. Apple may punch above its weight in users accessing video and so on, but much of the Android audience are just the kind of people we want to reach, people who've never used their phones before in this way."

He also sees advantages to Android, listing the platform's ability to multitask as one of them, and the lack of a disciplined approval process in order to release an app as the other. This is why Android owners can't get access the goods as fast as iPhone and iPad owners do. But, thanks to an overwhelming market share, developers can't ignore Android.

And there's more good news. According to data from Google, Android 4.1 and 4.2 "Jelly Bean" saw a massive jump in usage share over the November , rising from 2.7 percent to 6.7 percent.

Google is getting better at pushing updates out to users, but while it has taken "Jelly Bean" over four-and-a-half months to break 6 percent, data published by research firm Chitika Insights showed that  over 60 percent of iPhones and iPads upgraded to iOS 6.0 -- the latest version -- in under four weeks .