Why is it that your uncle's clunky old hand-held TV can pick up live channels, but our cutting-edge smartphones are left with 20-second cat videos?
A new device called Dyle can put live TV on an Android phone, iPhone or iPad. The cork-size plastic gizmo has a headphone jack at the end of a short wire, which houses an antenna that can pick up digital TV signals.
The wireless TV transmission is the same one that pipes into many homes that don't subscribe to cable. That means no monthly fee, and watching hours of video doesn't add up in costly cellular data bandwidth.
Dyle will also be included in an upcoming Samsung Android phone for MetroPCS.
Mobile Content Venture, the year-old company formed by such media giants as Fox Broadcasting and NBC Universal, makes the mobile TV service. The company expects people will access live TV from their phones in addition to all on-demand content found online. The over-the-air broadcasts Dyle pulls in are limited to a dozen or so channels.
"We don't think it's one or the other," Erik Moreno, an MCV general manager and also a Fox executive, said in an interview. "We think consumers want to do both."
MCV and Belkin International, which makes the accessory, declined to announce a price or release date. Those details should come in the next few months, Moreno said.
Dyle will also be included in an upcoming Samsung Android phone for MetroPCS, a prototype that MCV demonstrated at the event Sunday. A metal antenna can be extended from the top of the phone to improve reception -- and to make users look like they stepped out of a time machine from 1992.
My question is why cell phone makers don't just include a mobile DTV (MDTV) tuner in their phone. And the answer is that the cellular service providers who control what phone manufacturers put into their phone don't want it. They want you to buy a discounted phone or tablet from them with a 2 year contract for their "brand" of data access. Getting TV free OTA would "rob" them of all those streaming video dollars, and they would be subsidizing the tuner with no potential for making a profit from it.
Belkin, the ubiquitous maker of accessories for tablets, smart phones and laptops, later this year will market a dongle that will allow iPhones and iPads users to retrofit them and watch the Dyle mobile DTV service under development by broadcaster-owned Mobile Content Venture, MCV and Belkin announced yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The dongle, which attaches to the bottom of the Apple devices, contains a mobile DTV tuner and turns conventional earphones into a receive antenna that can pull in UHF and high-band VHF signals.
Erik Moreno, co-general manager of MCV, said that availability and pricing of the dongle would be announced by the end of March.
The Belkin announcement was the second of its kind in the past week. Last Wednesday, MCV said that MetroPCS, the nation's fifth largest wireless carrier, would market the Dyle mobile DTV service along with a Samsung smart phone with a built-in tuner, also later this year.
To watch mobile DTV on either the Samsung smartphone or a Belkin-enhanced iPad or iPhone, users will have to download the Dyle app and register for the service so they can decrypt the Dyle signals.
Although the basic Dyle service will be free, MCV is encrypting the Dyle signals so that it can keep track of users and their viewing habits and keep open the possibility of offering pay services in the future.
Both announcements show that MCV is making progress, albeit at a slow pace.
MCV, which is owned NBC, Fox and leading TV station groups, has yet to say when the service will launch or what exactly the programming will be. It has allowed that the programming will include some NBC and Fox programming.
A key to success is getting wireless carriers and manufacturers to incorporate mobile DTV tuners in many different kinds of mobile devices. The MetroPCS and Belkin arrangements are small first steps in that effort.
Nonetheless, Moreno said that the Belkin dongle is significant in that it will enable MCV to market its service to the close to 50 million Americans who already own either an iPhone or iPad.