Written by Technology

Making Your Stuff iPhone Compatable

In the past I’ve had a bit of a go at websites rushing to produce iPhone friendly versions of themselves. This might be in some part because I’m not an Apple evangelist like so many tech people (I have an iPod, but that’s it, and I think iTunes is a truly awful piece of bloatware). But I think it’s mostly because producing websites for single platforms is surely a bad idea in the long term: if you produce an iPhone version of your site, then do you also produce a Windows Media, PSP or S60 version?
We’re likely to get many more hardware devices of various sizes and shapes over the coming years. That’s why we have standards, and browsers that can correctly render websites.
There is an argument for producing “lite” or mobile versions of websites. If you’re unfortunate enough to be browsing via mobile on less than 3G (I am), then you need these versions, and frankly you need them with 3G too. And I see that the BBC has just launched a new version of its mobile site, although I’ll stick to the PDA version since it’s more useful for my handset.
But it’s interesting to see what’s happened following the creation of an iPhone friendly version of the iPlayer. Since Apple is for reasons currently unknown, refusing to implement Flash on its platform, the regular streaming version of the iPlayer won’t work – and can’t be tweaked to work.
That meant using a streaming H.264 format. But within hours of this new service launching, it quickly became apparent that you can pull down this stream relatively easily (well, OK – a bit of technical knowledge is required) thus ending up with highish quality un-DRMd mpeg-4 files of programmes. Why is it without DRM? Well that’s pretty much the only way you can get your programmes onto an iPhone without selling it through the Apple Store, and that’s a totally different proposition.
It’s certainly true that there aren’t “Download” here buttons, and you need some tools largely used by developers to pull the streams down. But it can be done, and it can be automated.
In reality, I wouldn’t expect too many users to misuse the streams like this, although it does set a precedent. If you really want a dodgy download of Torchwood, you can already get it in a multiplicity of places. Divx/Xvid remains far more popular, with many DVD players now playing back this format natively.
But the questions regarding the choice of the iPhone as a platform remain. Many of the comments in the Beeb’s internet blog on the subject are worth reading and valid.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the BBC has explicitly explained that these services are for WiFi connections only, since a half hour programme results in a file well over 100MB in size – not something easily downloadable via EDGE (should you actually get that). GCap, who have started streaming a number of their radio services via the iPhone, similarly tells listeners that their service is for WiFi connections only. This isn’t because you couldn’t stream radio online via the iPhone – you could – but because O2, the UK’s only iPhone service provider, actually disallows streaming. Lovely.