Editorial no image

Published on November 11th, 2010 | by Christian Cawley

“Oh, it’s for the iPhone…!”

I’m a big gadget freak. When I’m not co-ordinating news and reviews for Kasterborous, I can usually be found playing with a computer, tinkering with a mobile phone or writing about it. I was 7 when I got my first computer (a Commodore 64) and I’ve had one ever since.

The recent success for Doctor Who as a free PC game has been something I’ve been longing for since the 1980s, and with The Adventure Games it feels as though the franchise has finally got into the swing of computer gaming, banishing the horrific memories of Dalek Attack! and others. Success on the home computer platform has seen Doctor Who games move to consoles with a Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS game imminent, and there is even an iPhone game in the offing from the BBC.

Ah yes, the BBC. Why is it that whenever they do anything mobile, it is for the iPhone?

British Mobile Phone Statistics

By the end of 2007 the UK had around 73.1 million mobile phones. In 2008, around 25% of these were on the o2 network – at the time the exclusive network for the iPhone. That means that under 18 million people owned an iPhone, and the true figure for this period is probably closer to 1 million in 2008, as the figure has recently hit 2 million. With a 7% increase in mobile phone use in the intervening time and the iPhone available on other networks, as many as 5 million Apple iPhones are estimated to be in use in the UK.

This amounts to just 20% of British mobiles according to 2010 figures, a drop in the ocean compared to the 46.9% of all UK mobile phones being powered by the Symbian platform phones (commonly found running Nokia phones and until recently Sony Ericsson), and closer to the 19% of RIM (BlackBerry), 11% of Microsoft and 3% of Android phones.

BBC iPlayerAn organisation funded by what is effectively a tax, would, one might assume, be quite keen on open standards such as those found on the Android platform. Why do I still have to resort to third party apps to watch iPlayer on my Android phone (despite announcements that Android apps would be provided this year.)

There are 30 million households in the UK, and almost all of these pays the licence fee. Targeting mobile apps at just one sixth of these households seems insane!

I Want the Doctor Who iPhone Game on my Android…

…but  can’t, despite it being a partially used mobile platform. I also can’t play it on a BlackBerry or a Nokia or Sony Ericsson. Despite the 3% figure above for Android, this figure looks set to increase considerably over the next few years and it seems likely that the platform will move into a three horse race with iPhone iOS4 and Symbian. BlackBerry and Microsoft Windows Phone will probably also even out their share – but there is no announcement from the BBC about developing mobile games for other platforms.

Now this editorial is nothing to do with the BBC’s coverage of Apple, Android, Windows Phone or any other technology. It is purely asking – why, iPhones are used by a small sector of the mobile market, are they being favoured?

I don’t think anyone really knows.

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About the Author


A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

2 Responses to “Oh, it’s for the iPhone…!”

  1. avatar Paul Cavanagh says:

    Up the revolution! I don’t mind declaring myself to be resolutely anti-Apple. Stylish, for sure. But also hugely overpriced, hyped, and in some rather curious way worshipped by converts. I find it all rather spooky to be honest. I can’t see any reason for the BBC focussing so heavily on iPhone apps, to the detriment of other platforms.

    I don’t agree with you on the Adventure Games Christian – I think they’re dire. Sure, they look and sound fairly cool, but the actual content is dull, repetitive and not a patch on the glory that is the TV show. However – iPlayer – that’s a different matter entirely, and should be made available to everybody on every possible format. Now. Unless the user doesn’t pay the licence fee, in which case, they’ll have to wait for stuff to come on TV in their part of the world, or buy on DVD/Blu Ray. That should put the Rastons amongst the Cybers. ;-)

  2. avatar Dan O'Malley says:

    It’s a fair question to ask but I think you’re missing a few big points:

    1) iTunes apps are not just for mobile users: The millions of iPod touch and iPad users can also download from the App Store (I’m one of the former myself). This would nearly double the size of the potential audience you calculate.

    2) You gripe about the BBC focussing on a platform used by only “a sixth” of UK households — by the same logic why not complain about the BBC releasing Blu-ray discs, broadcasting HD TV or DAB radio — care to calculate how many households have the equipment to make use of the above? A lot smaller than one sixth I’m sure! ;)

    (In particular, I wish I had a quid for everyone who’s paid good money for a HD-capable TV but is still watching SD broadcasts — I’m one of them!)

    If we were having this conversation in 1967, would you be complaining about the BBC spending money broadcasting BBC2 in colour? (when 95% of viewers still had black and white sets) Ditto Ceefax in 1974, etc. etc.

    Size of the audience is not the sole concern here — bravo to the Beeb for keeping up the spirit of technical innovation and forward thinking that has served it well over the decades and not just focussing on current audience size over all other considerations. (An advantage of not being a commercial broadcaster I suppose)

    3) To answer the question “why not Android or Symbian?” check out this data from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_digital_distribution_platforms_for_mobile_devices

    These are global figures of course, but the overall trend is clear: despite there being fewer Apple phones than say Nokia, the iTunes App Store is way out in front in terms of no. of available apps & no. of downloads.

    Why do you think this is? IMHO a big factor is exactly because Apple’s hardware and software are NOT open-source — therefore the platform is more “contained” and hence straightforward to develop for, which clearly makes it more appealing for many app developers (the BBC included). So if the BBC want to dabble in mobile apps, this data shows that Apple is (for now) the right choice to maximise their investment.

    4) You’re also forgetting that the iTunes store is global and hence the potential audience (and revenue stream!) for the BBC is much larger than just UK licence-fee payers.

    So in much the same way that global DVD sales do, the sale of iPhone apps/content outside the UK could make this a cost-neutral (or indeed profitable) exercise for the Beeb so that precious licence revenue can remain untouched.

    And really, so long as the latter’s the case why complain about anything the Beeb may see fit to experiment with?

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