TV on your mobile is the next big thing, or so they say. I’m not talking little clips of this and that, either, but full blown live programmes, just as you’d expect to see on an ordinary telly.
Virgin Mobile is first out of the starting blocks with real broadcast TV to your mobile with its exclusive Lobster 700TV. Inevitably Virgin Mobile has coined the word ‘tellyphone’ though this only covers part of the deal, as TV is coupled with DAB digital radio.
What’s doubly interesting about the Lobster 700TV is that it is a Windows Mobile Smartphone – Virgin Mobile’s first. Now, my initial thought in this respect is that there was a conflict here. Live TV is a consumer focussed offering, while Windows Mobile Smartphones are aimed more at professional users or at consumers who are keen on keeping a handle on their lives with Outlook PC sync.
It seems like an odd marriage but I guess the choice has been driven because Windows Mobile Smartphones tend to have faster processors than other handsets, and therefore are more capable of handling TV data. Additionally, HTC the manufacturer of the Lobster is a Windows Mobile partner.
My second thought about all this is what watching TV on your mobile might cost. If you want to pay as you go then the Lobster 700TV alone will cost you £199, with the first 90 days of mobile TV free then a fee of £5 a month. Contract customers fare a little better but mobile TV is only completely free if you take a contract of £25 a month.
The Lobster 700TV is large. At 140g it is almost as heavy as Orange’s 148g SPV M600, a more feature rich Windows Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition device. Physical dimensions are comparable between the pair too with the Lobster 700TV officially coming in at 111.2mm tall x 58mm wide and 23.8mm deep compared with the SPV M600’s 108 x 46 x 19mm. The 58mm of width is a maximum measurement and takes account of the protrusion on the right side that houses the TV and radio on/off switch, and, presumably, the tuner.
Overall, the Lobster’s size has been put to good use as far as the control buttons are concerned, with large number pad buttons, and for a Windows Mobile Smartphone, relatively huge Home, Back, Call and End buttons. The softmenu buttons are thin and long, but I didn’t find them a problem to use. The Navigation button is rather nicely shaped with three square corners and one rounded one and again it is large. Sitting alongside the 3, 6 and 9 keys are markings that indicate you can use these keys to move up and down channels, pause and move between TV and DAB radio.
I’m not delighted with the build quality. As already noted, this is a HTC made device, and usually that company does a good job when it comes to build, but here things feel a little less solid than usual. The casing looks like the plastic it is, and the numberpad buttons, while nice and large, have a lot of movement in them, almost as though they might come off.
Bluetooth is built in but is neither infrared nor Wi-Fi (the latter is still rare for Windows Mobile Smartphones). The handset is Tri-band GSM, and there is a 1.3 megapixel camera on the back with neither flash nor self portrait mirror to give its low megapixel count a lift. HTC could easily have made the large silver surround for the lens double as a self portrait mirror but chose instead to inlay grooves into most of it.
What irritates me most in terms of technical specifications though, is the memory expansion system. The press information Virgin Mobile distributed with my review handset did not even mention memory at all – perhaps they think it is something device users aren’t bothered about.