I was having lunch with Andre and Brian from Nitobi, who work on PhoneGap (a really nice piece of technology) and we found ourselves laughing over our phone feature cravings.

There are two obvious things that everyone wants but just aren’t there yet on the devices we carry around. First of all, video chat. My Nexus One is just the right form factor to bring friends & family up on, for some on-the-road face time. It is after all a communication device, right?

The second thing that’s not there yet is the world’s single most popular application of video technology: TV. What is the damn point of having a video screen that’s connected to the world if I can’t use it to watch a hockey game or CNN reportage, live?!

Then we were laughing, because these things have moved from silly pipe dreams to gonna-be-here-real-soon-now at such wrenching speed. Who wouldn’t want to be in the mobile business?


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: kaarthik (May 13 2010, at 12:20)

TV over mobile phone has been around in other parts of the world (in India, for instance) for a while now, atleast since 2006. You can get news feeds and sports over mobile phones. I believe it is only the US that is really lacking in these sorts of mobile features.


From: folderol (May 13 2010, at 12:33)

I'm sorry to report that both video calls and mobile TV have already been widely available and marketed by mobile operators and handset makers for several years in many GSM markets (like Western Europe)

They are both widely considered commercial failures in most of these markets, with very little actual usage.


From: Sai (May 13 2010, at 12:44)

HTC EVO 4G will have video chat powered by Qik.


From: Leo (May 13 2010, at 12:46)

Slingplayer and eyeTV gives you plenty of live TV action on mobile devices for just a couple hundred dollar hardware purchase


From: Stephano (May 13 2010, at 12:47)

Spend a day in Tokyo. You can't spit and not hit a cell phone with TV capabilities. Video chat has also reached the status of "very available" there as well.

I think it's all about the demand. Most people in the US commute by car, making these features something they might not want to pay for.

Young Japanese girls tend to drive massive sales in Japan. Needless to day, in Toyko, they take the subway.


From: Brian Ewins (May 13 2010, at 13:04)

One of those is already here - I was watching the Giro d'Italia cycling race live this afternoon from my iPhone. Gazzetta d'Italia, who sponsor the event, have a free app for that. Was just fine on 3G, reasonable quality pictures.

In the UK, there's also tvcatchup.com, which shows most of the free-to-air digital channels (BBC1/2/3/4, ITV1/2/3/4, Channel 4, etc) on the web - and on your phone. Despite the name, its just live feeds, not a catchup service. Handy, but I find this one a bit stuttery on 3G


From: unclespeedo (May 13 2010, at 13:05)

A friend of mine without cable has been watching the playoffs on his iphone via the CBC app, I'm not sure how scalable it is or what kind of resources CBC is throwing at it behind the scenes but it's nice to see them in the persuit. $2.99 per game ain't too bad either when you compare it to the price of a PPV event on the boobtube.


From: Jamie Macey (May 13 2010, at 13:34)

TV-on-mobile-phones has been around for years and years in Japan. We just don't see the huge variety of models over on this side of the Pacific that they do.


From: carl (May 13 2010, at 13:43)

The future is coming very soon: http://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/cbc-hockey/id338741250?mt=8&s=143455&ign-mpt=uo%3D6

I've heard there's an MLB app too.



From: Matt R. (May 13 2010, at 13:53)

No reason? Would the content providers allow their content to go to the device?

TV content on computers of all types is severely limited, because the content providers choose it to be. Would they treat something like Hulu for iPhone any differently?


From: Rahoul Baruah (May 13 2010, at 14:30)

As others have noted - I had video calls three years ago on the 3 network in the UK. I got five free minutes per month and then the cost was just prohibitive - so I barely used it.


From: Michael Martin (May 13 2010, at 17:30)

The HTC Evo 4G with Android will have that front facing camera for video chat and is coming out in less than a month on June 4th...before the iPhone HD/4G

The video chat software it will come with may be, or at least a stepping stone to, what you want.

,Michael Martin


From: Chris Cassell (May 13 2010, at 17:38)

There's Zattoo for iPhone in Switzerland: http://itunes.apple.com/ch/app/zattoo/id369607618?mt=8


From: Jay (May 13 2010, at 18:12)

Video chat doesn't even work on a desktop, with a steady camera and nice bright lighting. It's far too distracting that you can't meet each others' eyes. I have five different ways to video chat and I do it maybe once a year; I don't think it will be any better on mobile.

And I think live TV is going away. Who wants to watch on a network's schedule? I haven't watched any live television in six years; I strongly suspect I never will again, other than ambient pub viewing. I would give up television in a heartbeat rather than return to appointment viewing.


From: Norbert (May 13 2010, at 21:07)

According to a recent survey in the Economist, mobile TV is very much available, but already failing as a business in Japan and South Korea: http://www.economist.com/specialreports/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15980809


From: Marc (May 14 2010, at 00:49)

I've been video-chatting on my Nokia using Fring for some time already. The 5800 has an additional front-facing cam, so it's quite handy. The quality of the video is quite limited, but works well enough for that purpose: Skyping with the family while away.


From: Sam J (May 14 2010, at 03:41)

As others have pointed out, both of these have been heavily marketed before in markets such as the UK, and anyone here can tell you that they've both been spectacular, drawn out failures. Bashing 3 UK, in particular, was at one point almost obscenely fashionable, and that contines, to some extent, long after the network reached levels of coverage and reliability that would make many others (O2, in particular) green with envy!

The problem, as ever, was money. The networks paid, with a sealed bid, amounts so depraved and perverse that you'd expect to see the Pope doing porn. Gay porn. With condoms, even!

The networks then couldn't afford to build reliable networks, but they couldn't afford *not* to have their customers use them, so video calling was launched, to much fanfare and using more money that should've been spent on technology.

Predictably, at least to anybody who was paying attention (and nobody was), it both sucked and blowed. Sucked more than a thousand Dysons, blowed more than a thousand of those rather amazing Dyson hand dryers (and boy can they blow!). It was a pure, unmitigated pile of steaming horse poo. On the rare occasion that both you and your one friend with a videophone had a 3G signal, dropouts, freezing and astonishingly bad picture quality meant that you were never going to use even the handful of video minutes you had—let alone go over them and start paying the flagrantly extortionate charges which the networks had to levy because they had no money left. Poor quality hardware—cameras and speakerphones (remember, holding your phone to your ear isn't an option, so it's that or fiddle with a shoddy proprietary headset every time you make a videocall)—was a further nail in the coffin.

Mobile TV fared a little better, after all, you can get away with buffering it, but since it was being delivered over the same 3G networks it not only suffered from most of the same problems as video calling, it used a tremendous amount of data—the networks had to limit each customer to only a few hours per month, and rights issues meant that channels were often stripped of much of their content. What many people seem to forget about mobile TV in the far East is that it's actually *broadcast* and therefore separate from the mobile phone network. One company here in the UK, Vodafone I think, realised this and started broadcasting a few channels over DAB, the European system for digital radio. However, this was also a terrible experience as not only was the tech required bulky and a massive power drain on the single clunky handset that could receive it, DAB coverage was also quite patchy.

Needless to say, the required technologies have improved greatly over the past few years, and if anyone could make it work well it would be Apple, but I still don't think we're there yet.

And I'd *love* to see anyone try to market mobile video calling to the British public again! Go on, I dare you…

*evil grin*



From: Daniel Sieradski (May 14 2010, at 18:22)

I just got the Al Jazeera Livestation app for my iPhone, am blown away by the high quality of the live streaming television over 3G, and am wondering why every single other TV network is not already doing it.


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