Today, the BBC has announced that it is finally allowing people to download iPlayer content to their iPad and iPhone to watch them offline. Previously, although the iPlayer app was available to most users, they needed a live internet connection (either via Wi-Fi or 3G) to stream programmes.

Now, you can download those programmes and watch them wherever you happen to be: on a plane, a tube or abroad on holiday. The ability to watch shows outside of the UK is a side benefit, since iPlayer is available only to those with a UK IP address.

The downloaded programmes must be watched within 30 days, and once you've hit the play button, you have to finish watching within seven days. These restrictions are more than reasonable, and shouldn't even be noticed by most people.

The new feature is available for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch owners, with an update for the Android iPlayer app coming soon. We particularly like the ability to download multiple programmes at once, a feature that will also be available to Android users. There's no word on a Windows Phone update, or for other operating systems.

How to download iPlayer shows on your iOS device

Make sure you install the latest update for iPlayer. Launch the App Store and tap Updates - you should see an iPlayer update for version 2.0.0.

When you next launch the iPlayer app, it will open on the new Downloads tab.

iPlayer iOS version 2.0.0

To download something, go to the TV or Radio tabs, choose a show and tap the download button. You'll get a warning saying that shows can be downloaded only via Wi-Fi, and when the iPlayer app is showing on screen (not running in the background).

After the programme has downloaded, tap the play button to play it or, if you have several shows downloaded, tap the Downloads tab to see the list and choose one to play.

Long time coming

From our point of view, the ability to download programmes to your smartphone or tablet is well overdue. You've been able to do this on a PC or laptop for several years. The BBC says it's "iPlayer's strategy to move beyond the PC and make more quality BBC content available across mobile, tablet and internet connected TVs".

This suggests that there may be an option to download shows on smart TVs in the future.