The Birth of Cell Phone TV

By: Christine Peppler

In 2005, multimedia cell phones which provide the streaming video necessary for viewing television became a market force. More than a year later, the use of cell phone TV is still quite small but definitely growing in the US. We now see individuals in coffee shops and subways, sitting mesmerized by their tiny 3" screens while the remainder of the population wonders if watching TV on their cell phone is for them.

What Is the Video Quality Like With Cell Phone TV?

For anyone considering the purchase of a multimedia phone to view TV, it is important to understand that the technology is still new and under development. The quality of the video is still evolving. The video on cell phones that is currently offered is not always fluid and sound can sometimes be muffled. However, for those investigating the service it's important to understand that the quality can vary quite a bit by carrier as they utilize different digital technology to deliver the signal. Therefore, consumers should be sure to test out the different carriers before making a choice. As cellular carriers continue to upgrade technologies in the coming years, it would be logical to assume that video quality on cell phones will be greatly enhanced as well.

What Is It Like Watching TV on a Small Cell Phone Screen?

For many people, one of the primary questions about the ability to actually enjoy watching cell phone TV, is in regards to viewing entertainment and news on a tiny 2" or 3" screen. There are a couple of differences with cell phone TV that make the tiny screen quite tolerable although not a replacement for the great room TV. First, is the simple fact that users view the screen from only 10-12" inches versus from 10 feet or so. The difference in viewing distance makes the tiny screen much more comfortable than many people would imagine.

Another difference with watching cell phone TV is that the programming being viewed generally is not full length episodes. Much of what viewers see with cell phone TV are mini-television episodes, original content developed specifically for cell phones and other mobile devices. This prevents users from having to sit for extended periods of time holding their cell phone within 12 inches of their face. The brief episodes can provide good entertainment or information that fits nicely within a short subway commute or break in the work day.

What Are the Cost Consideration of Cell Phone TV?

Another question that often arises is the cost of cell phone TV. Obviously cell phones that support yet another feature generally have a higher price tag although certainly free multimedia phones can be had when committing to a 1 or 2 year cellular plan. Another cost factor is battery life. Obtaining good video consumes a lot of battery power. Manufacturers are of course continuing efforts to develop energy sources that can support the multitude of functions on our multi-tasking cell phones so this should become less of an issue over time. The other cost inherent with cell phone TV is the charge associated with the programming offered or the data plan for that carrier. Most data plans will run between $10 and $25 per month in addition to the regular calling plan however the time spent watching the video usually does not count against the air time allotted within the calling plan.

What Programming Is Available on Cell Phone TV?

Many cellular providers now offer some form of cell phone TV, such as Verizon's Vcast, but there are other options as well. One service that is currently popular is MobiTV which offers viewers channels such as MSNBC, ABC News Now, CNN, Fox News, Fox Sports, ESPN, 3GTV, NBC Mobile, CNBC, CSPAN, TLC, The Discovery Channel, Weather Channel, music videos and more.

Currently, cell phone TV can offer a good diversion during long waits and can keep busy people up-to-date. As with all technology, advancements with the video quality will continue in the coming years but this is the birth of cell phone TV and you are there.

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