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.