Softbank iPhone 1-seg/battery first impression

One of the first (and if you ask me, more trivial) complaints about the Japanese iPhone I heard was it's lack of a 1-seg digital television receiver. Of course as Japan has a proprietary network I was hardly surprised and was fine with the omission. I've had 1-seg phones before, and it seemed quite gimmicky. Sure the reception is waay better than old analog portable tvs, but nowhere as good as a digital download. Of course the fact that Japanese television is mostly mindless crap that makes MTV look highbrow may have effected my opinion as well. Then, out of the blue, Softbank announced a portable 1-seg solution for the iphone. Not only would it enable the iPhone to receive digital tv broadcasts, but it would also double as an external battery. I had to admit, my curiosity was piqued. Well it's out (in limited release) in Japan now, so here I go again. Trying out some useless tech gizmo of the sake of humanity (hey, it helps me sleep through the night ok?)

How does it work? It's actually quite a trick. I have to admit that I wouldn't have thought it could be done so easily. As the iPhone has no video-in capability (that we know of), the 1-seg unit actually streams the video over wifi. When you power the unit up, it creates an ad-hoc wifi network. You can access this network via the iPhones wireless settings. No passwords required, so if you see someone using one of these feel free to pirate the connection. Once connected, you use the softbank provided app (free of charge) to connect and you are ready to go! Note that you maintain your data connection, so the double networks will eat battery life for breakfast, but you will not be able to use wi-fi for data at the same time as you are watching TV.

The software is bare bones, but functional. No recording of course and I haven't figured put how to access extra content links. Actually the app is quite twitchy and I find any touch of the screen while watching a program drops you back to the menu. Kind of a pain really.

To make up for the extra battery drain, the device includes a built in 1200 mAh li-on battery pack and a USB-out port you can use to charge up the phone. This should be enough to at least half charge the phone, even when streaming video. Kind of am elegant touch considering the cludgy nature of the add-on. I have to admit I'm pretty impressed. It's definitely not for everyone, but softbank has come up with a pretty impressive accessory for the iPhone. Definitely has possibilities for future applications.

Flickr only let's me put one picture per post, but will add some screenshots to my flickrfeed.

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About Steve

Gadget Addict, Tokyo Resident and Techno-Luddite. Training, Solutions, and New Media Specialist. Not a fan of Mosquitoes.

Posted on January 5, 2009, in Mobility, Technology. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Nice review, I was wondering how this would turn out. I actually have an APC UPB10 battery pack – 10WH! – and agree wholeheartedly with the ‘J-TV makes MTV look highbrow’ sentiment, so I don’t think one of these things will be in my future. 🙂
    Anyway, thanks for the review.

  2. Great review, thanks. Was particulary interested by the Wifi ad hoc network setup that I hadn’t heard about. What kind of software do you have to install on the iPhone for this to work (on the App Store?)?

  3. Paul,
    Once you turn on the tuner it broadcasts an open wi-fi ad-hoc connection. The connection is open and unencrypted so opening up the wireless settings on the iPhone will immediately list the ssid as an available network. The SSID for the device is unique and printed on the bottom of the device, but follows the pattern “TVNB00####”. Connect to this network first.
    Of course if you are connected to an existing wi-fi network this will break your connection. The network icon on the iPhone will actually reflect “3G” instead of wi-fi, even after you connect to the 1-seg module.
    Once the connection is set, you just start up the TV app (Here’s a link http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=299498867&mt=8) and it should detect the connection and launch.
    The app itself basically just streams video from the source, similar to other streaming video applications on the iPhone. It just takes advantage of the ad-hoc network settings. It opens the way for other apps that can do “location aware” data streaming.
    Kind of an interesting idea. Disney for example could create an app that provides guides and info, but only from within a Disneyland park area. Corps can use similar techniques to control data access using both VPN and physical proximity.

  4. Apple TV adapter / battery pack for iPhone now available from Softbank

    As reported this evening on Macotakara, the Apple iPhone 1Seg TV Tuner and battery are now available from Softbank outlets here in Japan priced at 9,840 yen (US$109).
    As far as the TV function goes, the unit works by converting the incoming TV signal…

  5. Hey there, Steve
    Thanks for a nice and thorough review. I had my eyes on this thingie for quite a while, but I couldn’t justify spending 100 bucks for something that I can do for free – watch J-TV at home. One thing that interests me though, is if it’s possible to use this device on a regular macbook, i.e. watch tv on macbook display through wi-fi connection?
    Thanks!

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