Show on the Go: A Guide to Mobile TV


Once upon a time, TV was confined to the living room, where families would gather to watch their favorite shows and exhausted professionals would unwind after a hard day’s work.  But the advent of smartphones brought TV on the go. Phone providers, application developers and TV executives are catching up to the demand for this anytime model.

The results are mixed. According to a 2012 Nielsen survey, 85 percent of tablet and smartphone owners use devices as a “second screen” while watching TV, but many users have yet to embrace the idea of watching TV on smartphones. According to an 2012 Comscore survey, 20 percent of smartphone users watched TV on their devices. A new wave of devices with larger screens and faster processors may turn the tide in favor of mobile TV, however.

Take a break from “Angry Birds” and Twitter while you catch up on your favorite shows. With the right hardware, the latest apps and a few tips, you’ll feel like you’re in a virtual living room.

The Phones

While outrageous theatrics and an eye-tracking feature dominated the headlines of Samsung’s Galaxy S4 release, the Korean-based company continued its trend of increasing screen size, unveiling a five-inch screen on its latest flagship device. Critics complain that so-called phablets (phone/tablets hybrids) are clumsy and difficult to store, but these large devices cater to those who want to consume media, including TV, on their phones. Samsung isn’t the only phone manufacturer boosting their phone sizes. Apple responded to the call for more size with its latest phone release, iPhone 5, and rumor has the iPhone could receive another size upgrade later this year. These phones feature large, high-resolution screens. Samsung and Apple dominate the current smartphone landscape, but HTC and Blackberry offer considerable alternatives.

Before this, devices grew in size and internal processing power, watching mobile TV was a pipe dream. Although not perfect, the latest smartphones can handle hours of your favorite show along with more conventional smartphone duties.

The Apps

Big screens are processing power are the foundation for mobile TV, but it takes software developers to bridge the gap between technology and media. With apps, which add unquantifiable value to smartphones, media providers can develop platforms for viewers to consume content via smartphone. One such company is Netflix, the online streaming movie and TV service which is now dipping its toes into original content development. All of Netflix’s streaming content is available to iOS and Android users through its native app. Direct TV also offers its service streaming to smartphones, according to direct.tv.

If you’re looking for a TV provider, ask about current mobile capabilities and whether mobile TV is a part of future plans.

The Tips

Mobile TV can be a convenient escape from the pressures of daily life, but it’s not ideal in every circumstance. A few guidelines will save you from excessive frustration:

Avoid streaming content on your phone with a poor Internet connect. Best case scenario: you watch snippets of your favorite shows in between long periods of buffering. Worst case scenario: your phone ends up shattered on the floor.

Keep tabs on your battery life. Many smartphone users already complain that their phones don’t make it through a day. Video sucks the life from these devices.

TV isn’t everything. Phones take up enough of our times we could spent with real people. Stream TV when appropriate, but don’t forget to look up and smell the roses.

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