Dyle dongle delivers dinky dose of digital TV

EscortDyleIt was very nice for the folks at Escort to send me their Dyle-based MobileTV dongle for iOS devices. They sent it as a result of my visiting their booth at Showstoppers, of which I’ve written too little, during this year’s NAB Show, of which I’ve probably written too much.

For a quick overview of what Dyle dongles are like, you should read the recent Wall Street Journal article about Belkin’s version. This Escort version is a little smaller, but it also does its job.

The first dongle that Escort sent me was DOA, but they graciously and promptly replaced it with one that works great. The manual claims that it requires iPhone 4 or later, but I tried it on my old iPhone 3GS and it works fine there. Ditto for my iPad. Once I downloaded the iDTV USA app from the Apple App Store, it recognized the dongle right away.

Before I could scan channels and watch TV on my iPhone, I had to validate myself. Unless I entered my birth year, gender, and Zip code, I wasn’t going to watch anything. (There was also a box for entering my paid TV subscription service, but that was optional. For now.) Then I extended its 6-inch antenna and scanned. Here at FTABlog world headquarters in Denver, the number of channels it can receive is one, the NBC affiliate.

So what else can I tell you? It works fine in a moving car, which isn’t surprising since that’s pretty much what mobile TV was designed to do from Day One. The first demos I saw years ago in Las Vegas were pointing out how well the technology handled moving cars and passing by tall, reflective buildings. Other notes:

  • The mobile screen ran about six seconds behind its full-sized ATSC version when I watched them together. Maybe some of that was the local pause buffer? That was a little longer than I expected, but no big deal.
  • Speaking of that buffer, it’s supposed to last for up to 10 minutes, long enough to pause and ignore commercials. The visible fast-forward makes it easy to queue up post-ad programming.
  • The dongle must be charged separately through a standard micro USB cable. It plugs in to the base of the iOS device, so that device must also be running on battery power during viewing. No 12-hour marathons here.

I still think that mobile TV is a solution in search of a problem, but it really does work. Will there ever be enough dongles sold to encourage enough stations to add enough mobile channels to actually sell enough dongles? My guess remains that there won’t.