BBC iPlayer: tips, tricks and other useful features

Want to get more out of your streaming? We've got you covered.

Researched and written by Nicholas Fearn

The BBC has been at the forefront of broadcasting and entertainment since it launched in March 1922. Just over a decade ago, the broadcaster launched iPlayer, which quickly became one of the most popular ways to download and stream TV and radio shows in the UK. Available on a variety of smartphones, tablets, laptops and TVs, the platform allows you to catch-up on the BBC's extensive range of programming.

Of course, it's come a long way since its launch in 2007. Not only has the BBC continued to add new shows and channels to iPlayer, the app itself has also undergone numerous redesigns and received new features over the years. More recently, it's placed an emphasis on 4K Ultra HD content, and BBC Three has become a digital-only channel. If you're new to the service or just want to watch the latest episode of Eastenders, here are some tips and tricks to get the most out of the BBC's popular streaming service.

Make sure you're signed up

While you don't have to sign up for a BBC account to use iPlayer, you can end up missing out on many extra features and functionalities. By creating a free account, you're able to sync your favourite shows and channels across your devices, and you'll also get personalised recommendations. You're asked for your postcode and personal details when you sign up, but that's only so the broadcaster can send you relevant information, rather than tracking the things you do (at least for now.

Getting around

You shouldn't have any issues when it comes to using the iPlayer app, either. The user interface not only looks fresh, but it's also easy to use. To access all the different channels, categories and TV guide, you just press the 'menu' button located in the top left corner of the app, or you can drag it down. What's more, you can use the search category to find a particular programme, and the My Programmes section lists shows you've previously watched, downloaded and bookmarked.

Language and location

Depending where you live, you also have the option to change the app's location and region. You can do this by going into the app's settings, which can be accessed via the top right corner. Here, you'll find regions such as London and the West, as well as options for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Language options include Welsh, Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic.

Live TV

It's possible to access live television through iPlayer as well. To do that, go to the 'TV channels' section and click on the channel icons. These are located on the left. Once you click on a programme, a video window should pop up and start within a few seconds. You'll need a good connection, as always, and it offers the option to pause and rewind shows.

TV License changes

You'll also want to be aware of the new License Fee changes, which came into place last year. Before, you only had to pay this fee if you wanted to access live programmes through iPlayer. However, now you need a license for all aspects of the app. Currently, the License Fee costs £147, although it can be paid monthly. This tends to change every few years to be in line with inflation.

Programme information

Most people like to know more about what they're watching, and iPlayer makes this easy. You can get details on a programme's plot, its duration and how many days it's available on iPlayer under the playback screen. There are also options to download, share, buy [this might be going away with the closure of the BBC Store, can you check?] and add shows. If you want to set up subtitles, simple press the 'S' icon on the programme you're watching.

Watching shows in HD

The new iPlayer app will also play shows in HD automatically. Currently, the broadcaster's HD resolution is at 1280x720 -- not Full HD -- for laptops and smartphones. When you experience Wi-Fi troubles or low bandwidth, the video will be switched to a standard resolution, so you'll want to ensure you have a sufficient internet connection.

Using Series Record

There's nothing more annoying than missing your favourite programme, but the BBC iPlayer Downloads desktop app will make sure this never happens again. To get this up and running, you need to click on the 'settings' menu, find 'series record' and press 'on'. When you get it working, selected programmes will download automatically.