Do we really need another way to rot our brains? Yes, yes we do — and live TV on our phones is just the ticket. The latest effort to get the boob tube on a mobile device is AT&T’s Mobile TV with FLO (Forward Link Only), and it’s surprisingly good. Coupled with the LG Vu phone, it’s a match made in couch-potato heaven.
The MediaFLO service uses an unusual, nonstandard bit of spectrum to ensure that the streaming of your favorite flicks is uninterrupted. Instead of downloading the data over AT&T’s 3-G network, the Qualcomm-developed technology operates primarily on the old UHF television band, though it does tap into the 3-G network in order to get started.
The result is that there’s virtually no buffering and programming starts up within a few seconds. On the Vu’s brilliant 3-inch screen we found picture quality to be insanely clear and frame rates to be smooth as the ice cubes in a tumbler of 30-year-old bourbon.
“Mobile TV” is a bit of a misnomer. Only a few channels are simulcast, meaning you can watch them in near-real time: for instance, Comedy Central, breaking news on CNN and and selected sporting events on ESPN. All other programming, like episodes of your favorite Fox shows (Family Guy!), are time-shifted and updated when necessary.
There are three different Mobile TV packages to choose from. Included in the $30 package is unlimited Mobile TV, Web browsing and CV mobile video along with CBS Mobile, CNN Mobile Live, Comedy Central, ESPN Mobile, Fox Mobile, MTV, NBC 2Go, NBC News 2Go, Nickelodeon and PIX (Sony Pictures). The mid-tier package, at $15, gives you unlimited Mobile TV and the CNCRT channel for a limited time. The basic package includes CBS Mobile, FOX Mobile, NBC 2Go and NBC News 2Go for only $13.
Watching live streaming TV or movies like The Karate Kid on the Vu’s 3-inch haptic touchscreen is, well, pretty amazing. The user interface is fairly intuitive with straightforward menus. And the mere fact that we can watch clips from 30 Rock while sitting on the bus is satisfying in itself. Hell, it almost makes us want to junk our 52-inch monster HD LCD and watch TV on our phone full time. Almost.