Just when you thought the iPhone and iPad had extended their versatility as far as they can possibly go, we’ve found yet another use for them: watching live television.
With Belkin’s Dyle Mobile TV Receiver attached to an iPhone or iPad, access to live, local broadcast TV is now as easy as catching a rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond on TV Land. About the size of a pack of Tic Tacs, the 1-ounce device fits any iOS device with a 30-pin connector. (For iPhone 5 and iPad mini, you’ll need a Lightning-to-30-pin adapter — possibly the big reason the price of this device has dropped from $150 to only $100 without there being a hardware update.)
After downloading the free Dyle TV app on your iOS device(s) and attaching the Belkin dongle, just extend its titanium antenna. Beware, however, that viewing on the iPhone’s 2-by-4-inch screen is quite a comedown from watching an actual television set. And, currently, Dyle’s U.S. coverage is limited to just over 40 metro areas in which up to five broadcast stations can be received. My testing region, the San Francisco Bay Area, included five local stations, including the local Fox and NBC affiliates, a local independent station, the Qubo kids network, and Telemundo.
Reception varied depending on the station and where I was sitting. At its worse, the sound drifted in and out and the image froze momentarily every few seconds. At its best, reception of sound and picture was as fluid as you’d experience watching a regular, full-size TV set. Alas, good reception or not, the Dyle TV iPhone display is ultimately marred by its app, which cuts off the top and bottom to accommodate its menu and station selection toolbar. The resulting picture is like a Hannibal Lecter banquet, with heads chopped off and feet amputated.
Viewing on an iPad was a more satisfying experience. The larger screen handles Dyle’s letterboxing appropriately, and the reception is better as well, with only the occasional bandwidth hiccups. That said, the meager selection of five stations was a bummer. And those five only seemed to get reception when I sat still. On a moving car, bus, or train, forget it.
Ultimately, the limited choice of stations, with only four in English, turns your $100 investment in the Dyle dongle into an expensive, dissatisfying endeavor to capture “free TV.”