Apple iPhone and iPad users have long been able to make use of the BBC iPlayer service for TV and radio programmes via the site. Content is delivered in a format that’s appropriate for each device (it doesn’t use Flash, in other words), but it is limited to programmes that have already been broadcast — there’s no ‘live’ option.

That all changed with the recent launch of the BBC iPlayer app for iPad. This free app has a bespoke interface that makes full use of the iPad’s large screen, making it a vast improvement over the simplified ‘Bigscreen’ web site that the BBC previously used for the iPad.

The most significant new feature, however, is a channel grid that shows the BBC broadcast schedule. This shows the original broadcast times and dates for programmes that are still available on iPlayer (much like a retrospective TV guide) and upcoming programmes, but the current programme on any channel can also be selected and viewed live over an internet connection.

Well, it’s not quite ‘any’ channel — the app doesn’t include regional TV and radio programmes. These can’t be accessed through the iPlayer web site either, since this relies upon the iPad-compatible Adobe Flash. Unlike the iPlayer web site, the iPlayer app also can’t download programmes for later viewing, so it needs an active internet connection at all times.

The BBC has also released a version of the iPlayer app for Android 2.2 devices. This offers much the same set of features as the iPad app, but does rely upon Flash its programme delivery.

BBC iPlayer TV content is only available from within the UK, but most radio programmes can be listened to abroad. It’s also worth noting that while on-demand TV and radio content can be watched on iPlayer without a valid TV licence, live broadcasts cannot.

[BBC iPlayer on iTunes]