How TV Phones Work
It could tie the glass surfaces in all appliances, cars, table surfaces, kitchen tables, smart tables, and even bus stops and building surafaces!
And it could tie seamlessly into other Apple devices, like the iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air, giving the company an enviable full-circle consumer product line. The vision might look something like what Corning, the makers of Gorilla Glass (widely believed to be the glass used for the face of the iPhone and iPad), predicted in a promotional video it published in February,see video above
Photo courtesy © Nokia, 2005
Nokia N92 phone.
Now Is Apple working on a smart LCD TV powered by iOS software?
According to a recent report by Venture Beat, "multiple sources in Silicon Valley" say yes.
Apple is looking into adding some sort of subscription to Apple TV, in a bid to bring more premium content to the service.
This is according to the Wall Street Journal, which has been speaking to undisclosed sources at Apple about what will be the next big move for the electronics giant now that Steve Jobs is no longer at the helm.
Buried in a piece about the future of Apple, the WSJ explained that some sort of subscription is on the cards for Apple TV, noting: "Apple is working on new technology to deliver video to televisions, and has been discussing whether to try to launch a subscription TV service."
The quoted bits come from a WSJ article on the uphill battle Apple CEO Tim Cook faces as he settles into his new role. It’s the kind of offhand comment you expect to see in WSJ’s articles on Apple, a company it has a track record of having reliable insider knowledge of.
Ever since Apple launched TV rentals on the iTunes Store last year, customers have been hoping for a way to rent episodes from iTunes for a monthly fee. The WSJ article says that
Apple did make an attempt in 2009 to get the various studios to agree to a subscription service for TV shows through the iTunes Store but the talks fell through.
When being interviewed at the D8 Conference in June last year, ex-Apple CEO Steve Jobs spoke at some length about the problems the company faces when dealing with the television industry due to its entrenched business model and the lack of a “viable go-to market strategy”:
Apple analyst Gene Munster told VentureBeat that an Apple TV could be ready by late 2012 or early 2013.
Apple is almost certainly working on a digital television based on its iOS operating system, according to multiple sources in Silicon Valley.
Reports have suggest that Apple has turned its focus to the television market, providing a device that would possibly allow users to stream music, videos and TV shows via its iTunes platform, but Apple is currently unsure of OLED technology due to its higher cost and related issues with large-sized OLED displays.
An Apple-based television makes sense in light of Apple’s continued expansion out of the computer industry into the larger consumer electronics market. But is it real?
Multiple reports, as well as sources interviewed by VentureBeat, support the rumor, which is widespread among the gadget industry.
- Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, a longtime Apple analyst, predicts that Apple will produce a television in late 2012 or early 2013. In an interview with VentureBeat, Munster cited multiple sources, including component suppliers as well as an internal Apple source, to back up his theory. Munster predicts this will be an actual TV, not just a set-top box, and most likely running a version of iOS. (Note: Munster made a similar claim in 2009, except then he said that Apple would have a TV by 2011. He now says “I think the probability is almost zero that it will be this year.”)
- Venture capitalist Stewart Alsop, of Alsop Louie ventures, lent credence to the “iTelevision” theory in an interview with VentureBeat. Alsop sits on the board of media hardware maker Sonos, was formerly on TiVo’s board, and follows the hardware industry closely. He says he has heard from multiple sources throughout Silicon Valley that the Apple television project is underway.
- The Wall Street Journal mentioned that Apple is “working on new technology to deliver video to televisions, and has been discussing whether to try to launch a subscription TV service,” according to “sources familiar with the matter.” That’s typically code for an inside source.
- And Cult of Mac notes that the time may be ripe for Apple to make a television, as high-end TVs have started to dip below the $1,000 price threshold.
- Even former Apple CEO Steve Jobs turned the wheels of the rumor mill in 2010, saying that it made sense for Apple to integrate its technology into television sets.
Alsop figures the only thing holding Apple back is the cost of LCD screens, which has been a limiting factor in all of Apple’s iOS products since 2007.
The company initially planned to make a tablet when it started planning a touchscreen-centric computer in the mid-2000s. But, Alsop says, the cost of the display was prohibitively expensive, so Apple instead focused on applying the technology to a device with a smaller, cheaper LCD: The iPhone.
Furthermore, writes VentureBeat, "The price of LCD panels has droped fairly steadily, thanks to increased manufacturing efficiency, so eventually quality screens became cheap enough to make the 9.7-inch iPad economically feasible." If the trend continues, VentureBeat predicts that "15-inch or 19-inch touchscreen televisions running iOS" will hit shelves in the foreseeable future.
Apple has already released two generations of a set-top box, called Apple TV, which in its current iteration lets users purchase and stream content from iTunes, as well as access streaming services like Netflix, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo and more. But a TV built on iOS would function more like an iPhone or an iPad, with access to the web, apps and more.
In that first incarnation, the TV signals were transmitted over a standard cellular network, meaning per-minute watching fees and unbelievable phone bills. In 2003, Samsung and Vodafone introduced phones in Korea and Japan that received local analog TV broadcasts for free. But the video was choppy, and it drained the phone battery.
The real "mobile TV revolution" is only beginning, as telecom companies release high-quality, DTV-enabled phones and simultaneously rush to build the broadcast networks to deliver the corresponding content. In this article, we'll find out what types of mobile TV are in the works and take a look at some of the phones that receive the signals.
The basic idea of the TV phone is pretty simple: It's a cell phone that acts as a TV receiver. If you've read How Television Works, you know that TV signals are just radio signals. Cell phones pick up radio signals all the time -- it's what they do. In the case of TV phones, they have the ability to receive radio signals in the TV-allocated frequency bands in addition to the bands allocated for cell-phone voice data. For instance, a TV phone in the United States might tune in to the 2110-to-2170-MHz band for a conversation and the 54-to-60-MHz band to pick up TV channel 2.
The concept is not earth-shattering, but delivering TV signals within a mobile framework poses some challenges. For one thing, streaming video requires fast transmission speeds. Previous "2G" GSM networks provided data-delivery speeds of 10 to 14 kilobits per second (Kbps), and "2.5G" networks offered 30 to 100 Kbps. At 10 Kbps, a TV show is really a slide show; and at 100 Kbps, it's pretty choppy. There's also the bandwidth issue. Television data takes up a lot more space than voice data, and delivering live TV to thousands of cell phones simultaneously can slow a network to a crawl. Finally, receiving, processing and displaying video content requires battery power, and cell phones don't have much juice to spare.
More on Cell Phones
While you can subscribe to a TV service plan right now (such as MobiTV, Sprint TV or SmartVideo) if you have the right phone, the standards for mobile TV broadcast and delivery methods are still in their infancy. In the next section, we'll take a look at the primary methods of mobile TV distribution.
TV phones are the way of the future, but click here see how telephones have evolved over time.
Some standards rely on satellite broadcasting to deliver live TV to cell phones. They can broadcast from satellite to phone, from satellite to base station to phone or use both methods simultaneously.
Two systems that employ this approach are MBSAT and S-DMB. In the S-DMB (Satellite Digital Multimedia Broadcasting) system, a content server sends the live TV feed through an encoder (typically MPEG-4 for video and AAC for audio) and transmits the data to an S-DMB satellite in the frequency range of 13.824 to 13.883 GHz.
The geostationary satellite rebroadcasts the signals directly to terrestrial repeaters at 12.214 to 12.239 GHz and directly to cell phones on the S-band, 2.630 to 2.655 GHz. The terrestrial repeaters fill in the gaps where satellite signals get disrupted, like in a city surrounded by tall buildings or in the subway. The dual broadcasts are coordinated so that if a subscriber happens to be within range of the satellite and a tower at the same time, he'll receive both broadcasts and end up with a stronger signal. An S-DMB system can reach data rates of 128 Kbps.
WiFi broadcasting is in use everywhere, and the S-DMB service has been up and running in Korea since mid-2005. DVB-H had its first commercial launch in June 2006 in Italy and is currently in trials around the world. In the next section, we'll check out some of the cell phones that are compatible with mobile-TV systems.
These are great websites and sources: Howstuffworks
- "3GSM 2006: hands on with LG's DVB-H TV phone." Tech Digest.
- Baig, Edward C. "Channel surf on your cell phone with MobiTV." USATODAY.com. Feb. 11, 2004.
- DVB-H: Global Mobile TV
- Hesseldahl, Arik. "A Mobile Phone That Tunes In TV." Forbes.com. July 29, 2003. http://www.forbes.com/2003/07/29/cx_ah_0729tentech.html
- "Honey, what's on the cell phone tonight?." ZDNet News. Feb. 6, 2006.
- Kharif, Olga. "TV Phones Prep for Prime Time." BusinessWeekOnline. Dec. 1, 2004.
- "Mobile TV." Telecom ABC.
- "MobiTV teams with IPWireless." CNET News.com. Feb. 8, 2006.
- "OFDM Tutorial." WAVE Report.
- "Orange to Test MBMS-Based Solution in Its UK Unpaired 3G Spectrum." IPWireless.
- PCMagazine Glossary
- Qualcomm MediaFLO.
- "Sanyo's Digital TV Phone." MobileBurn.
- "Satellite DMB Service." SK Telecon.
- Sundgot, Jørgen. "TV-enabled LG V9000 swivel phone makes appearance." infoSync World. Feb. 17, 2006.
- Williams, Martyn. "Hitting the Street With a Satellite TV Phone." PCWorld.com. Oct. 19, 2005.
- Williams, Martyn. "Samsung Phone Adds TV Reception." PCWorld.com. June 12, 2003.
The following companies all have DVB-H headend equipment commercially available.