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Review: Watching live TV on the go, for free
Watching a movie on such a small screen grew tiresome, in the same way that I’d rather watch a long movie on a tablet than on my smart phone. With a larger screen, LG could also make the resolution sharper, which would make DVDs look better.
Although the player is loaded with easily identifiable buttons for pausing or fast-forwarding a DVD, for example, it’s not immediately clear how to change TV stations. You have to press a button on the side of the player to make a list of channels appear and then use arrow buttons, located on a different part of the device, to select the one you want. This process should seem archaic to people used to remotes, much less tap-able touch-screen phones.
If you’re traveling, you might find yourself moving in and out of TV coverage zones. Scanning the spectrum to update the list of available stations can be time-consuming _ for me, just refreshing the list of channels available in my New York office took two and a half minutes. This might take less time if Mobile DTV technology were built into a smart phone, which could use the navigation system to automatically figure out where it is and then download the list of local channels.
The player promises up to four and a half hours of battery life. I found that even after watching TV three times for a few minutes at a time, the battery life dipped to four out of five bars. After a few minutes of watching a movie on DVD, it sank to three out of five bars. With the TV playing continuously, the player lasted less than two hours before it turned off.
After playing with the gadget for a few days, one question for me is, do consumers really want a device like this? I, for one, would worry that Mobile DTV won’t be around for long.
That’s because Mobile DTV wouldn’t be possible without the cooperation of local broadcast stations. But not many people watch broadcast TV compared to cable or satellite, and the Federal Communications Commission has started to look at ways to encourage or pay broadcasters to end transmissions and turn over the spectrum for mobile broadband use. That’s what lets people watch, say, YouTube on their iPhones, and is so far a more popular way to consume video on the go than a service like FLO TV.
As for LG’s player, which carries the catchy name “DP570MH,” even the notion of a portable DVD player seems dated when you consider that Apple Inc.’s 1.5-pound iPad can store up to 80 hours of video, or dozens of movies, which can be rented or purchased outright online.
But the iPad is pricey _ $499 to $829, depending on the configuration _ and the LG player’s simplicity and lower price might make it a better choice for parents needing to distract restless children riding in the backseat.
At a consumer electronics trade show in Las Vegas this week, manufacturers have been showing off dozens of devices that can receive Mobile DTV broadcasts, including plug-in antennas for the iPad.
It doesn’t seem like a crazy idea that these could catch on, and they may even provide an easier user experience than the LG player. But there’s one big hurdle in the way of the broadcasters’ hopes of making Mobile DTV a mainstream technology: Wireless companies have shown zero interest in selling phones with Mobile DTV chips because they prefer to sell more profitable data plans instead.
AP Technology Writers Peter Svensson in New York and Joelle Tessler in Washington contributed to this report.
By Brahma Chellaney
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