Two partnerships backing different forms of mobile TV are using this year's International Consumer Electronics Show to announce devices that can bring TV to iPhones through the back door.
There's no built-in hardware for watching live TV broadcasts on the iPhone, but both Qualcomm's FLO TV subsidiary and a group of mobile TV broadcasters are working with hardware manufacturers to create accessories they say can deliver a full mobile TV experience on the popular handset.
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On Monday, South Korean vendor Valups announced the Tivit, a device developed with support from the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC), which can pick up Mobile DTV broadcasts over the air and pass them on to various devices via Wi-Fi. On Wednesday, FLO TV followed with an announcement in conjunction with Mophie, a maker of accessory sleeves for the iPhone. They are readying a series of products that add a FLO TV receiver and antenna to Mophie's Juice Pack line of sleeves for iPhones and iPod Touch units, which include extended batteries.
Both products are set to go on sale in the first half of this year. The Tivit should cost between US$90 and $120, and will work with 3G iPhone models, newer iPod Touch models, BlackBerries, Motorola Android phones, and other Wi-Fi devices, according to Valups.
FLO TV and Mophie did not disclose pricing. Mophie's Web site includes some information on the Juice Pack TV for the iPhone 3GS.
TV content has been offered on phones in the U.S. for several years, but much of it has been delivered over cellular networks instead of true broadcasting. Picking up broadcast TV requires special hardware, and mobile TV competes against many other mobile applications and forms of entertainment, such as games and online videos. Analysts question whether it will become the blockbuster hit some are hoping for.
FLO TV provides a mobile TV service, offered by both Verizon Wireless and AT&T, that can deliver as many as 20 channels of live and pre-recorded TV programming. The company, founded by Qualcomm in 2004, owns its own licenses for former analog TV channels and operates transmitters in many large and medium-sized metropolitan areas around the U.S. Its programming is focused on national networks such as ESPN Mobile TV, Fox Mobile and NBC 2go, and the service costs about $9 to $15 per month. The content is available on the FLO TV Personal Television, which is a dedicated handheld TV, as well as on selected phones from mobile operators.
Mobile DTV is a specification approved last October by the broadcasting standards body Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC). The standard is designed for local broadcasts on a portion of the spectrum allocated for regular digital TV. It's intended for both free simulcasts of a station's regular programming and, eventually, subscription-based content. The OMVC is made up of 29 U.S. broadcasters that use or plan to use Mobile DTV.
FLO and Mophie didn't provide many details about their planned products. Users will be able to switch their iPhones or iPods between charging, standby and live TV settings, and the Juice Pack's battery will provide an extra four hours of viewing time, according to Mophie. The kit will include a stand for table-top TV viewing.