Poor Android. BBC stats show iPhone's Flash advantage

For all the hype surrounding Android and its support of Adobe Flash, the true facts show us that Google's OS is all about smoke and mirrors -- the leading smartphone remains the Apple iPhone, at least when it comes to actually being used.

A UK Freedom of Information request confirms the big difference between the two platforms.

While Android phones do support some form of Flash for some reason, they do so at the expense of choice, and only handsets running the latest version of Android, v.2.2, can access the Flash mob.

iPlayer's no Flash in the pan

The BBC runs an incredibly successful (so much so it has become a household name used and recognised by a wide distribution of UK license payers) digital catch-up TV service called 'iPlayer'. This is rather like Hulu without the ads, in the UK at least.

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This service has become virtually essential, allowing UK TV watchers to catch-up on BBC radio and TV shows. But when it comes to a comparison of usage between Apple's iPhone and Google's Android platforms, the revelations are telling.

The BBC began streaming iPlayer shows to Android devices on 23  June 2010. The Freedom of Information response as published by What Do They Know reveals a host of interesting stats.In July 2010, the BBC serviced over 5,272,464 show requests from iOS devices, including iPhones, iPads and the iPod touch.

Android is a minnow in comparison. In July 2010, just 6,400 programmes "were streamed  from the BBC iPlayer to Android devices," the broadcaster admits.

Compare this with iOS usage:

"In July 2010 there was an average of 230,016 Apple mobile devices users accessing programmes via the BBC iPlayer each week, peaking at 248,700 in the week commencing 26 July 2010," the corporation reveals.

Limited choice limits choice

I'm aware that only the (discontinued) Nexus One and HTC Desire can run Android 2.2 and are available in the UK, but what's interesting here (as noted by John Gruber on Daring Fireball) is that BBC iPlayer transmissions aren't made exclusively available in Flash.

iOS/iPhone users can access these shows in native HTML5. That iteration demands low processing power, meaning any iOS device can access the BBC streams.

However, the pro-choice implementation of the Flash video choice by Google's Android OS doesn't allow users of older Android phones to access the HTML5 streams.

If you are running a phone capable of managing to use the latest version of Android with a processor capable of keeping up with the needs of Flash, you can access iPlayer content. Assuming you are happy with the Flash 'experience'.

If however you are running an older Android phone, or have a handset that's just not happy with Flash, then you do not automatically gain access to the HTML5 version of the content.

Never mind, the BBC is developing an Android app built for receiving iPlayer content, which will doubtless eschew Flash in order to give users access to the real Web.

The 'real' mobile Web

A real Web which depends on open industry standards. A mobile Web which summons the best possible punch from limited power processors, and does not eat huge chunks of battery life. This is the future.

Citing content protection needs, Lorraine Stiller, legal and business affairs manager at BBC Future Media & Technology, has previously said: "The BBC hopes to be able to launch an Android application for the BBC iPlayer later this year."

In essence, iPhone users get an iPlayer app because Apple won't use Flash, while Android users don't get an app because Google supports Flash.

Is there a pro- or an anti-choice argument in this?

Is Adobe holding Android back as it tries to breathe life into its ailing multimedia technology?

And when will Flash develop a smattering of understanding for touch-based commands?

Now read this.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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