A Freedom of Information request to the BBC has revealed that streaming to Apple's mobile devices is currently significantly more popular than iPlayer on Google Android devices. Ben Griffiths of the WhatDoTheyKnow website made the request earlier this year, with the BBC providing figures for July in response. The data covered both streaming to Apple iOS devices - iPhone, iPod touch and iPad - and Android 2.2 smartphones using flash 10.1 technology.
The BBC responded: "In July 2010 there were 5,272,464 programmes requested via the BBC iPlayer from Apple iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad devices. For technical reasons we do not hold information on the number of hours of programming to Apple devices."
Regarding Android phones, the BBC replied: "In July 2010, 1,026 hours of programming were streamed from the BBC iPlayer to Android devices. In addition, in order that you may carry out the comparison with Apple devices, we confirm that in July 2010 6,400 programmes were streamed from the BBC iPlayer to Android devices."
Ben Griffiths also asked for information on the number of unique users of each service. The BBC responded: "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 number of unique IP addresses viewing BBC iPlayer was more difficult to quantify the broadcaster noted: "The BBC launched its streaming of programmes from the BBC iPlayer to Android devices on 23 June 2010. We do not hold information in the form you have requested because we produce only average weekly statistics for our own business purposes."
"For complete weeks since 23 June, the average weekly number of Android device users accessing programmes from the BBC iPlayer was 1,106, peaking at 1,896 in the week commencing 26 July 2010."
As John Gruber of Daring Fireball fame points out, the huge difference in streaming numbers is likely to be down to Flash compatibility issues on Android based smartphones. "Why so striking a difference? Because Android users can only access iPlayer using Flash, Flash is only available on Android 2.2, and the overwhelming majority of Android handsets - even brand-new ones - are still running older versions of the OS," Gruber writes.
Another explanation could be the prevalence of third party applications capable of streaming iPlayer content to Android devices without Flash. Users of the MyPlayer application for example, can stream BBC radio and television programmes directly within the application, rather than visiting the website. In this case, the BBC may not be able to quantify the number of users on the Android platform.