Mobile Phones Shouldn't Be TVs

from the not-going-far... dept

In the past few months three major mobile phone makers (Sony, Samsung and Nokia) have announced plans to add TV tuners to their mobile phones and one major carrier (Sprint PCS) has launched a painfully slow (2 frames per second!) streaming TV option for some of their subscribers. The whole thing reminds me of the hype around portable TVs that were popular for a week or two in the eighties as the second coming of the walkman system. The idea was that if you liked carrying around your radio, wouldn’t you like to carry around your TV as well? The answer turned out to be a big fat no, and most of the people who bought the TVs realized they never actually needed to watch TVs when they were out and about – because they were out and about doing something. So, why is the industry making the same mistake? Douglas Rushkoff thinks it’s even worse, because having the mobile phone industry focusing on silly things like adding television to phones means they’re spending less attention on improving the real reason people buy mobile phones: to have good voice calls. All the money and effort being spent on adding TVs no one wants could be better spent improving the mobile phone networks. He also has an interesting categorization of screen device “scales”: inch, foot, yard. Inch devices (PDAs, phones) are for personal content or small bits of content – not for massive data retrieval. Foot devices (TVs, monitors) work as well for data input and data retrieval – and can be shared by just a few people at the same time. Yard devices (movie screens, big screen TVs, whiteboards) are better designed for one-to-many broadcast communication. He points out that realizing the basic size of the screen suggests the type of applications it’s good for – and focusing too much on applications out of the sensible realm doesn’t make sense.

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Comments on “Mobile Phones Shouldn't Be TVs”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Piss Off

Someone please give me a compelling reason for watching TV, period. What did TV ever do for you, besides induce a semi-stupor and suck money out of your wallet though advertising? You’d accomplish basically the same thing by guzzling a couple of six-packs and collapsing in the corner. And these idiotic companies think we should have TVs on our phones. Just be a good little consumer slave and support the economy. WTF.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Piss Off

“What did TV ever do for you, besides induce a semi-stupor and suck money out of your wallet though advertising?”
Hmm, it made me laugh, it’s taught me science, history and the arts.
Ahhh,hmm lets let me see some news I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, let me listen to people I wouldn’t have otherwise, showed me pictures and events I wouldn’t have seen otherwise…
It’s not TV that’s bad, it’s what you’re watching on TV that sucks.
Turn off Fox, ESPN, NBC, CBS and ABC and turn on discovery, a&e, cspan, bbc, animal planet,IFC, the arts channel, etc.
Personally I consider myself intelligent enough to realize what advertising is, and to correctly evaluate the usefullness of something being advertised.
Go rant about something which makes sense.

Well, I guess I do have to watch Fox to see the Simpsons…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: TVs

Mike, I don’t think the comparison to carrying around a protable TV in the 80’s is fair. Those didn’t catch on because they not only sucked (quality-wise), but required you to carry around a somewhat bulky appliance. I already carry around my cell phone, a whole lot of people do. If, all of a sudden, I could watch TV on it while waiting for a train or at airports (or in meetings), then I would usually do it, especially if something good was on, even if the quality sucked. I mean, it’s in my pocket anyway, I might as well watch it, it beats staring at the back of the head of the dude in front of me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: TVs

I totally agree… and when you add to this the technology to use a tivo like system that stores your shows in pretty good quality to a memory stick that you can just pop in, suddenly you are not limited to the handful of poor reception channels you get over the airwave (not to mention don’t need a big antenna). Also the resolution and clarity of screens has greatly improved, battery consumption has greatly improved… it is a whole different ballgame this time around.

Mark says:

Re: TV While Driving

“I wonder if New York will have to pass a law making it illegal to watch TV on your cell phone while driving?”

First they should outlaw the cars that have televisions built in; those have been on the market for years.

Actually I think there’s one TV-on-phone product that would have a sizable market: the ever-elusive video on demand. If you can watch “The Simpsons” or “Alias,” not on Sunday night, but at any time when you find yourself stuck for a while — on a city bus, for instance, like I am ten times per week — then watching television on an itty bitty screen might seem attractive. It’s all a question of alternatives. If this is just a different way of watching TV, then it will go nowhere since the alternative (watching the same content on a bigger screen) is a superior experience. If the alternative, though, is the boredom of doing nothing at all, that’s when it starts to seem appealing.

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