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CES 2007 + iPhone

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Jan 13, 2007, 3:26 AM   by Eric Lin, Eric Zeman, & Rich Brome

Phone Scoop reports from CES 2007 in Las Vegas, plus the Apple iPhone. New phones from Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, LG and UTStarcom. Plus videos of NFC, Mobile TV and Video Sharing in action.

Only days before the holiday break, Qualcomm let it slip that MediaFLO would launch early this year, raising expectations that Qualcomm and Verizon would announce commercial service here at CES, since Verizon is Qualcomm's only confirmed partner as of yet. Today the two companies showed off MediaFLO, which Verizon will launch as VCAST TV this quarter.

Unlike Verizon's current video offering, VCAST TV does not stream video over the cellular network. Instead you tune into a channel that is being broadcast over a completely separate network, similar to how you get local TV stations over the air. MediaFLO isn't all that different than over-the-air digital TV that stations across the US are rolling out. The first difference is that it's broadcast in QVGA, which is the size of the VCAST TV phones' screens.

The broadcast quality is impressive. The video is sharp and perfectly smooth. The sound is excellent (it's encoded in AAC+). And changing channels is nearly instantaneous. It really does mimic the experience of home digital TV.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The second difference is the programming. Verizon plans to launch its service with 8 channels including CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, MTV and Comedy Central, as well as a few other stations. (Although Verizon only has concrete deals with CBS and Fox so far; negotiations with other companies are still in progress.) During prime time most of these stations will show the same thing as their home TV counterparts, including the same commercials. However at other times - like the middle of the day - they will be showing other programming and re-running prime time favorites, instead of the usual talk or game shows.

Although the broadcast won't be using the same exact live feed as your living room TV at all hours, Verizon talked up the fact that it could be used for live breaking news and live-action events, including sports. Verizon also hopes to offer some sort of local programming by the end of the year, though they haven't figured out what just yet. At first only generic east- and west-coast network feeds will be available.

Because VCAST TV is a live TV network and not on-demand, you have to watch it like in the pre-TiVo, pre-set top box days and catch your show when it is on (though it might be repeated). To help you along, you can subscribe to a show on Verizon's web site and they will text you whenever one of your shows is starting.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

There are still many unanswered questions about VCAST TV. While Verizon said it would launch this quarter, we don't know exactly when. Qualcomm said the network will be available in 20-30 cities this quarter, but today Verizon said it will be available in most major cities. Verizon is also still working out the cost of the service as well as the cost of the handsets. The service will launch on two phones, the LG VX9400 and the Samsung U620. Both have full VCAST features in addition to TV.

(A Verizon executive referred to the U620 as the "Mobi" during a presentation, but we were later told there was a good chance Mobi would not be the final name.)

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The U620 looks like a typical Samsung slider, although it looks and feels more like the rounded models from last year as opposed to the more recent slim, angular models. Because it is a simple slider, you have to turn the phone on its side to watch TV full screen. When held this way the antenna extends straight up, but if held as you would normally hold the phone, the antenna comes out of the side.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Both phones have extending antennas for MediaFLO reception. We tried watching TV with the antennas down and had no problem, so we asked around and learned that the antenna helps most when changing channels or when reception is very weak. The LG's antenna is easily twice as long as the Samsung's.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The LG VX-9400 looks like a wide, slim candybar style phone, only with no visible numeric keypad. The screen rotates 90 degrees to reveal the keypad and of course to set the screen up for watching TV. At least on this model only the numeric keys are under the screen. On previous prototypes soft keys or send/end keys were under the screen as well. Now all navigation keys - including the TV key - are in a nice cluster at the bottom of phone, where they are always accessible.

Because you need to use the screen in landscape mode for a number of things other than watching TV, (like dialing a call, for instance,) LG has integrated a number of nice interface touches around the rotation of the screen. For instance the camera viewfinder is normally letterboxed when the screen is in portrait mode, but if you flip the screen up, the viewfinder automatically goes full screen.

You can watch a video of the LG VX9400 and VCAST TV here:



or you can visit YouTube or Google Video for more viewing and sharing options.

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Subject Author Date
I wonder about the iPhone... enycertifiedg Feb 7, 2007, 10:38 PM
What's the point of live video sharing? motoXrosco Jan 12, 2007, 1:42 AM
Iphone thmbelina Feb 4, 2007, 4:55 PM
hs anyone heard of a replacement for the Sammy a990 fastharry Jan 29, 2007, 10:19 AM
Where is 3G??? lbrittner Jan 15, 2007, 1:11 PM
Is there a better phone? cleolicious Jan 27, 2007, 11:58 AM
IRRITATED chancer Jan 13, 2007, 11:29 AM
Question on the ultra phones Etix Jan 23, 2007, 2:32 PM
Where's the Sprint?! spr1ntr3p Jan 9, 2007, 4:55 PM
iPhone Specs MORTFE Jan 13, 2007, 5:24 PM
does anyone have info on a soon to be released samsung? monkeyracer Jan 14, 2007, 2:16 PM
I Dont Understand AnalogPimp Jan 13, 2007, 8:26 PM
iPhone battery.... kapwww Jan 13, 2007, 4:20 PM
CRAP CRAP AND MORE CRAP! LiLise22 Jan 10, 2007, 8:46 PM
WHERE'S SHINE?!!! paran Jan 11, 2007, 12:36 AM
Samsung A720 dragonbeast Jan 13, 2007, 12:08 PM
Question about N76 aber Jan 10, 2007, 11:06 AM
NOTHING ON WIMAX??? Jonathanlc2005 Jan 12, 2007, 1:49 AM
How do you dial??? Wireless Buddy Jan 9, 2007, 1:56 PM
VX9400 vid FAUguy Jan 11, 2007, 4:56 PM
 
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