Channel 4 is to replace its on-demand service 4OD with a rebranded offering that will be known as All 4. There will be no support at launch for Android, despite it being the most widely-used mobile operating system in the UK – Channel 4’s home market – by some distance.
All 4 will launch in the first quarter of 2015, but only PC and iOS devices will be supported. Although Channel 4 has promised to expand the service to other platforms, it has not stated specifically which operating systems will be supported, or given a detailed timescale for the roll-out.
Little information has been provided about the roll-out to other – as yet unnamed – platforms. Channel 4’s press release confirmed that availability will be increased “across 2015”.
Channel 4’s decision to launch All 4 with iOS, but not Android, support is particularly perplexing when the two mobile platforms’ market shares are considered.
Android has a UK market share that is more than double the size of its rival. Google’s mobile OS makes up 59.5% of the UK market, whilst iOS comprises 28.6%, according to the most recent figures available (July 2014) from analysts Katar Worldpanel.
An argument can be made that it is more time consuming to develop software for Android than iOS. This is because Android runs on a large number of smartphones and tablets, whereas iOS powers a relatively small range of hardware.
Therefore, when developing for Android, there is greater potential for an issue to arise that only affects a particular smartphone or tablet.
But the challenges of developing for Android are not insurmountable by any means. Despite undertaking the monumental task of launching a brand new portfolio of sports channels last year, BT was still able to release its digital platform on both Android and iOS on launch day.
BT Sport has also been quick to test new technologies, adding Chromecast support to its mobile apps less than a month after the Google media streaming stick was launched in the UK.
By contrast, Chromecast is still not supported by 4OD. In April, the Financial Times reported [paywall link] that Channel 4’s chief executive David Abraham had expressed ‘scepticism’ about Chromecast, referring to it as one of “a plethora of devices that will trickle into homes”.
When it launches, for the vast majority of device owners in the UK, Channel 4’s new digital service will actually be a downgrade when compared with 4OD’s availability.
There are currently dedicated 4OD apps available for Android, Windows 8, Windows Phone and iOS. These are in addition to support for traditional desktop OSs, games consoles and a wide variety of TV platforms.