Mobile TV has been the talk of the town for the last couple of years, and, though it has been adopted widely throughout the region of the Asia Pacific, in America it is still starting up. Although a number of niche services exist, carrier branded offerings and a couple of services that are at broadcast quality, they cost very much, their video quality is inconsistent at best and work on only some types of handsets. Luckily, Quickplay has brought us PrimeTime2Go, a service neither streamed nor broadcast: you are able to download entire installments of shows to your BlackBerry handset and view them as complete video files from inside the application. Although it looks great, and works very well, its content selection is lacking.
This application is presently available in BlackBerry’s World’s Music and Video App, and, for starters, you will need either a BlackBerry Bold 900, from AT&T, running the 126.96.36.199 version of operator system, or a Curve 8900 from BlackBerry, from T-mobile, running the operating system 188.8.131.52, or one of the later versions. A memory card of at least 512MB will also be necessary, and it is unfortunate that only 2 devices are presently supported. But, because PrimeTime2Go needs to be connected by Wi-Fi in order to download episodes, it is unlikely that any more ever will be: you cannot do this over the air, making use of the data network supplied by your carrier.
Although this does limit your choice of handset, it does have some good consequences too: because you are downloading complete episodes before you are able to view them, the quality will never be affected; a download that will typically take around 10 minutes to get a show of half an hour. You can watch your downloads on your next airplane flight, by simply activating your phone’s flight mode. Though the 8900 and Bold are currently only available from the previously mentioned carriers, this does mean that Sprint and Verizon could also possible work via this service, and keep all of the content agreements in place. Keep in mind that a distinctive television source of concern is that content deals and services like Sprint TV can only be accessed by means of a particular carrier.
This application is available for a mere $7.99 monthly for unlimited access, a fee $2 cheaper than MobiTV; $7 cheaper than Verizon’s V CAST Mobile Television service. It does not however offer consumers the luxury of a free trial: you can transfer the application to your handset and run it, and even browse titles before signing up, but you will not be able to view content until you pay. Refunds are only given if your handset is not compatible with the service at all, and all efforts at aid from tech support to get it to do so fail. But, because you do not have to sign a contract, cancellation is possible at any point, and the service will continue to work right until the last day of your paid 30 days.
You are presently able to access programs from MTV; CBS; Disney; and NBC, to name just a few. It has a very impressive network lineup, but some of these networks offer only 1 or 2 shows. To Quickplay’s credit, however, the majority of the shows on offer are the popular shows everyone wants to see, including Heroes; Grey’s Anatomy; CSI; 30 Rock; The Office; Lost; NCIS; The Daily Show; and Monk. There are almost none of the fillers you find so frequently in the other services like behind the scenes material; dull extreme sports; and 3 day old monologues from Jay Leno. There are currently no advertisements either, although this state may be changing, as spokespeople from Quickplay have hinted that they may well become a fixture in the future.
Video quality was excellent overall, with crisply drawn lines; smooth animation; and bright and striking colors; even the small type of the shows’ credits was easily viewable. The two handsets used for the testing, the Bold and the 8900, both boast high resolution digital displays, or LCD, and this application puts this feature to good use. There was none of the faltering pixels and none of the dropped frames that are so well known to us from the streamed services of MobiTV and AT&T Cellular Video. There were some problems with audio, with it falling out of synchronicity with the onscreen displays, but, in contrast to the other services where you frequently have to stop the feed and restart it entirely; PrimeTime2Go adjusted itself momentarily, without any intervention. These issues were minor however; it largely worked wonderfully.
It is also possible to queue up the shows you want to download: in tests, downloading 5 episodes of various shows took about an hour and a half. This is slightly longer than the 5 to 10 minutes for each show download that the service promises, but the 15 to 20 minute average is not bad. It is possible to subscribe an entire series; the application will download each new episode as it becomes available. Regrettably, because the content is DRM technology protected, you are not able to move it off your device and view it anywhere else, despite the fact that the application downloads each installment of each show to the microSD card. Episodes also expire: usually, within 2 weeks, although sometimes earlier too.
The bottom line is content: this application offers excellent video quality; no filler materials; and downloads of complete episodes. The question, however, is whether or not Quickplay can use this great platform to sign up more devices and more content deals; it does need access to more shows. However, the lineup they presently boast is a good one, if it appeals to your taste in shows, and it is well worth the small $7.99 monthly fee, and here’s hoping that it’s heralding the new face of Mobile TV.