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Innovation

iPad: Release of iPad 3G killed the ABC Player experience

The ABC Player app was retooled to work on 3G. Now it downgrades the video on Wi-Fi to be almost unwatchable at times. Is this a good thing?
Written by Joel Evans, Contributor on

When the iPad first came out I wrote a piece about how great the iPad ABC Player app was. The gist of the post was that you could use the iPad, along with the ABC Player app, as a perfect substitute for late night TV.

When the iPad 3G was first released, the ABC Player was restricted to just Wi-Fi use, and then the team behind the ABC Player modified the app to change the video quality based on the bandwidth constraints. Well, unfortunately this modification not only made the ABC Player work on 3G (a plus) but it also ruined its playback experience on Wi-Fi.

Last night I was all set to watch LOST on the ABC Player. I started watching and about ten minutes in, the quality of the video stream dropped significantly. I figured maybe it was a buffering issue, but the video didn't stutter. Instead, it just dropped in quality, becoming almost unwatchable on the large screen of the iPad. Thinking that it might have just hit a glitch, I stopped the playback and then resumed. Sometimes this technique worked, and full quality streaming came back. Other times, I had to completely exit the app and then re-open it.

After much trial and error and continued testing, including hopping from my G band to an N band, I've concluded that the app itself is to blame. It seems that the app will now change video quality based on the bandwidth available. So, instead of stuttering when it is having issues getting the video, it will just drop to a lower quality video stream. Since I didn't architect the app, I don't know how they're really doing this, but that would be my best guess.

If the above is true, I'm still trying to decide if I would rather have the video stutter during playback or drop to lower quality. I think my preference would be to have the video stutter, or even display the painful "buffering" note. Of course, the better option would be to give me the option in a settings screen.

Have you experienced the quality of the video playback changing? Share your experience below. Also, would you rather video stutter or drop in quality during playback?

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