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MWC report: iPhone, TV broadcasts, new multiplatform games etc.

02-22-2009, 09:51 PM
Joined: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,594
MWC report: iPhone, TV broadcasts, new multiplatform games etc.

1. a cleaned-up, much improved version of this report will be published in the forthcoming iPhone Life (papermag) issue.
As it'll be a joint effort on my and the mag's part (cleaning up the English, making the text as easy to digest as possible by adding additional references / explaining things etc.), I won't be able to post it online, unlike this (initial) version, which is (still) entirely my work. Sorry about this.
2. the article not only refers to the iPhone; for example, the games section (Gameloft) equally applies to Windows Mobile and Java (including Symbian and, probably, even BlackBerry) as Gameloft releases its games to all these platforms as well, not only the iPhone. The same stands for some hardware manufacturers (chargers, cases, or, Parrot with their car kits) and TV broadcast solution companies. That is, you might want to read it even if you don't have an iPhone or an iPod Touch.
3. as usual, a. you can click most shots to get a much bigger and higher-quality version; b. if you download the additional video clips I provide (outside YouTube) and your media player can't play it back, use the free and excellent Videolan VLC to play them. (They use the highest-quality H.264 for video.)

Several software companies developing for the iPhone have attended the Mobile World Conference this year; also, there have been some very nice hardware accessories for the device. First, I introduce some of the software and, then, the hardware news.

1. Generic software

1.1 Gaming

Thanks to the business model of Apple's AppStore and the more or less (the only problem is the lack of a directional pad) gaming-friendly, 3D accelerated hardware, the iPhone enjoys the most game releases with some really high-quality titles. At MWC, some of the gaming companies were also present.

1.1.1 Gameloft

Gameloft is one of the biggest players in the iPhone gaming industry. It’s they that published titles like Asphalt4, the racing game I recommend to everyone. The company has other, excellent titles like Guitar Rock Tour, Real Football 2009 (which has also been awarded a GSMA 2009 award) and CSI:NY (a detective game; not as sophisticated as real text/puzzle adventure games like those of Legend Entertainment or, as far as the iPhone is concerned, 1112 (AppStore link; quick review) a complete rewrite of the very popular, quality Windows Mobile title, Fade).

In addition to their recently released simple 2D shooter game "Wild west Guns”, they also showcased their forthcoming (it should hit the AppStore in early March) golf title "Let’s Golf!” Compared to the other golf title, RESETgame’s "Par 72 Golf”, I’ve played a bit ago, it was much-much faster. The game is excellent in other respects too; for example, it has nice, non-repetitive in-game music in stereo.

(presskit screenshots; I wasn’t allowed to take direct shots / videos of the game as it's still a work-in-progress)

I’ve also played their Prince of Persia remake, POP HD, on the Windows Mobile platform (more precisely, the forthcoming Toshiba flagship and 3D powerhouse, the TG01). It turned out to be a really well done game, which, hopefully, is very soon ported to the iPhone. Please see our blogs for a game video.

As far as the Windows Mobile ports of Gameloft are concerned, as is explained HERE (the PocketGamer.org link is also worth checking out for David's additional thoughts on the issue), while the company does port its games to Windows Mobile (that is, this one will too be ported), it only offers them thorugh mobile operators, not via traditional, well-established channels like ClickGamer, Mobile2Day (or even Handango). I really hope they do change this as, for example, their forthcoming Prince of Persia HD really rocks on 3D hardware accelerated phones. (Their big hit on the iPhone, Asphalt4 Racing, wasn't accelerated on the Samsung Omnia, though - it used software rendering, meaning ugly, pixelizated and very slow graphics.)

1.2 Remote desktop control

iPhones can not only be used to play games and make phone calls, but also remote control any desktop computer to, for example, quickly look up data you’ve left on your office or home computer. (You might want to check out THIS Windows Mobile-specific roundup for more info.) There have already been some implementations of doing this - for example, VNC clients like Veency (in Cydia) or Mocha (in the AppStore) - or the RDP client Jaadu.

1.2.1 LogMeIn Ignition

LogmeIn Ignition is pretty similar to previous remote controller solutions: it makes it possible for you to remote control any desktop Windows PC. It, however, entirely builds on the LogMeIn framework, which has some advantages over "traditional” access methods like VNC or RDP; for example, it allows for gaining access to any desktop computer even through firewalls, without having to remember the Internet address of your computer – which is particularly useful when it’s dynamically changing. LogmeIn has a very easy-to-use interface you’ll quickly familiarize yourself with.

Some goodies, like file transfer, already implemented in the desktop (or the Windows Mobile) client are (still) missing from the current version; nevertheless, the developers promise they’d look into implementing at least file transfer.

1.3 Adobe Flash

One of the biggest problems with the Web browser of iPhone, Safari, is the lack of Flash support. While Adobe announced last November they have created an iPhone version of Flash and all they did was waiting for AppStore approval. At MWC, they have only announced support for alternative platforms (Windows Mobile, Symbian and Android). Many analysts consider this as a revenge on Apple for not allowing the official client to be entered in AppStore.
02-22-2009, 09:52 PM
Joined: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,594
1.4 Viigo

One of the better RSS readers and podcatcher apps (please see THIS for more info on what the latter means), which, incidentally, has recently received a major update on the BlackBerry (also including podcasting and Twitter support), will also be ported to the iPhone.

1.5 Yahoo Mobile

Yahoo has also announced porting their all-in-one Yahoo Mobile solution to the iPhone. This AppStore-downloadable program (slated for release later this Spring) installs on the iPhone and lets the user access everything Yahoo (for example, Mail). This greatly speeds up for example accessing your personal mail account – no need to go through a Web interface any more.

Two videos I’ve made:

First (not that recommended; high-resolution/-quality original in H.264 HERE)
Second (much more recommended; high-resolution/-quality original in H.264 HERE)

2. Video streaming, TV

Unfortunately, the vast majority of current TV stations use Windows Media Video (WMV) for broadcasting, which can’t directly be played back on the iPhone. Third-party solutions highly popular on other mobile platforms (for example, CorePlayer) still don’t support these kinds of streams. Also, the iPhone (iPod) completely lacking TV receiver hardware, you can’t directly watch TV broadcasts available in your region. Fortunately, there are some just-announced solutions that, in the future, may fix these issue.

2.1 PacketVideo

While PacketVideo (just like all the other, similar companies at MWC), basically, is targeting mobile operators, their standalone offering may still be released for end users.

First, they have a dongle containing a DVB-H/T receiver. This receives digital TV broadcasts and transferring them via Wi-Fi to (also) iPhones and iPod Touch devices. Note that, currently, they only support DVB-H/T, which is only common outside the US. In the States, DVB-T is not at all used and DVB-H is very scarce, MediaFLO being the main method of mobile TV broadcasts. Hopefully, if PacketVideo indeed makes its product available to individual customers, they will also offer a MediaFLO-specific version for American users.

Another (and pretty much independent of the above-explained DVB receiver/Wi-Fi transmitter) of their new products is a complete TV transcoding solution they currently offer to mobile operators only. It allows operators to offer (paid-for, iPhone-compatible) versions of TV programs to their customers. What really makes this especially interesting is that the PacketVideo folks have managed to implement a WMV decoder for the iPhone, which, basically, opens up the huge inventory of existing TV streams to watch right on your iPhone – without having to pay anything extra for your mobile operator (if they at all offer the channels you’d like to watch). The importance of this is enormous for an iPhone user – after all, currently, very-very few TV stations / programs offer iPhone-compatible streams. Actually, I only know of the Finnish Web "video recorder” service "TV Kaista” that offers all the recordings of most Finnish TV channels from the last two weeks as iPhone-compatible streams.

(the PV booth)

(the DVB receiver & Wi-Fi transmitter next to my iPhone 3G [in a case, making it slightly larger])

Note that a lot has changed since the first announcements and demos of the service; this also means the currently available demos you can see on YouTube are outdated and no longer reflect the current user interface of the program. Now, they use a completely redesigned interface with the list of the available channels on the left and other goodies.

A YouTube video of a demo of the player in action is HERE

2.2 Qualcomm

Describing the dongle of PacketVideo, I’ve already mentioned MediaFLO, the US de facto standard for digital video broadcasts for mobile handhelds (not to be mistaken to ATSC, which is meant for non-mobile receivers). Qualcom, the main company behind the technology, has showcased a reference design of a MediaFLO receiver and transmitter based on their chipset. As It uses Wi-Fi to broadcast its transcoded contents, the iPhone is also compatible.

A video is HERE (YouTube version; high-quality/resolution original HERE)

The Qualcomm folks stated there still aren’t any retail products utilizing their chipset doing all this (they just showcased a concept device with it).

Also note that, as with most of the similar solutions, this isn't an iPhone-only transcoder - most? all? of the alternative smartphone operating systems will be able to access the same content.

Speaking of transcoding and playing back mobile digital broadcasts on handsets not having a built-in receiver, I’ve also asked the Nokia folks whether their Bluetooth DVB-H receiver will receive at least DVB-T compatibility (for non-American users) and support for significantly more and not only Nokia handsets. Unfortunately, the answer is no. See THIS for more info.

2.3 1cast and wit Software

I’ve also seen some other companies’ demo of their, similar solutions; for example, that of 1cast and wit Software. The latter has also demoed their mobile operator-side solution. It was low-resolution (QCIF) only because of the mobile operator’s restrictions. I’ve taken a video of it; it’s available HERE and HERE (YouTube; much higher-quality original of the former HERE). Note that, however, the quality of the reception severely suffers from the network congestion (at MWC, everybody is accessing mobile networks) – the service works far better in a far less stressed (congested) environment. That is, in real-world situations, wit software's solution fares far better.

02-22-2009, 09:52 PM
Joined: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,594
3. Hardware accessories

3.1 Car kits

Parrot has come out with some new designs for controlling, docking and recharging the iPhone: the MKi9100 and the MKi9200. They have also come up with a pretty decently designed set of stereo speakers, along with an iPhone / iPod dock, the Zikmu by Philippe Starck (slated for Spring 2009 release). See product page HERE for more information on all this.

This is a decent addition to the T605, IHF1000 by Motorola and the Parrot CK3000 Evolution, CK3100 and the 3200LS Bluetooth car kits by Parrot.

3.2 Chargers and cases

There have been several companies offering chargers for the iPhone; for example, FreePlay (a company specializing in solar chargers and quick-to-recharge external chargers):

(their rapid charger and iPhone solar charger available to end users)

(the iPhone solar charger from the back)

(…and the bottom)

(their other products having very strong retro-feeling: two digital radios [without a shortwave tuner] and a stereo, battery-operated "audio box” with a built-in iPhone stand)

… and IDAPT-INOITULOS (homepage HERE; it’s still pretty basic; a CES article with video HERE), with their all-in-one solution: swappable charger sockets and a charger also functioning as a stand / cradle:

It’s already available for end users for US$ 50.

As with third party chargers, there have been several companies offering iPhone cases; for example, Trexta:

3.3 Audio enhancement, A2DP

3.3.1 Bluetooth stereo audio transfer

One of the biggest omissions of the iPhone (3G) is the lack of high-quality Bluetooth audio transfer (A2DP) and remote multimedia playback control (AVRCP). By using these, you could get rid of the cables while listening to music on either stereo headphones or external speakers; also, you gain a way to control (volume up/down, stop/restart, next/previous) the playback of your media.

There are two ways of fixing this problem. The easier and non-iPhone-specific one is getting a pair of A2DP headphones (for example, the Plantronics Pulsar 590A or the latest, just-released and astonishingly high-quality Altec 906 - see review HERE) coming with a Bluetooth adapter that plugs into the 3.5mm audio socket of the iPhone. This will make it possible to listen to music, but you won’t be able to remotely control the player with the headphones buttons. To allow for the latter, you’ll need an iPhone/iPod-specific dongle that plugs into the cable connector of the handset. (Technically, it’s there that the handset also allows for controlling playback.)

So far, only few dongles of the latter (AVRCP-capable) type have been released: the Infinxx Icombi AP21 and its enhanced, improved version, Infinxx AP23 iBluon Bluetooth Dongle Adapter (also known as iBluon TD02; review HERE). Another announced one, 8Bananas’s BD-906, doesn’t seem to be available and the homepage of the manufacturer is down.

Now, iSkin (webpage HERE) has announced another dongle that does the same, the CERULEAN TX ( homepage: http://www.iskin.com/ceruleantx/ ). They also offer a pair of Bluetooth speakers, CERULEAN RX. Note that there are several other similar Bluetooth A2DP loudspeakers – they have lately, become pretty common. That is, you don’t need to purchase the RX to listen to your tunes – as the TX utilizes the industry-standard A2DP and AVRCP protocols, any other set of speakers (or headphones) can be used.

3.3.2 SRS

SRS is a well-known company for its audio enhancement software and algorithm(s) – if you’re coming from Windows Mobile, you may already have heard of them as several WM handsets come with it preinstalled. They have come up with a headphones-only iPod / iPhone dongle (connecting to the system socket of the device) doing essentially the same.

4. The competition

There have been some remarkable, multimedia-capable phones comparable to the iPhone well worth mentioning.

On Windows Mobile, the WVGA (800*480 – the iPhone’s resolution is 320*480) 3D hardware accelerated Toshiba TG01 is worth mentioning. It has a whopping, new-generation 1 GHz processor, which greatly speeds things up. On the negative side, though, the device is huge, albeit leaner than the iPhone. Also, Toshiba has a pretty bad record of updates and bugfixes and the TG01 having no Start button, it’s questionable it’ll ever get the next operating system updates.

HTC, the biggest player in Windows Mobile, has also announced two new models. They are pretty nice but can go nowhere near the revolutionary TG01.

On the Symbian operating system, it’s mostly Samsung’s Omnia HD that is worth mentioning. It has an OLED screen capable of rendering colors far better than traditional handsets (including the iPhone), a high-resolution touchscreen and an excellent camera not only able to take 8 Mpixel shots, but also 720p (1280*720) videos. Its multimedia features are topped by allowing for 720p video playback and a pair of stereo(!) speakers.

Please see our blogs for more info on the competition: the last TG01-related article is HERE, the Symbian all-in-one one is HERE.
02-22-2009, 10:04 PM
Joined: Dec 2008
Location: Rhode Island
Posts: 1,866
Wow, that's a lot to read.

Web Designer & Developer since 1999.

Games I highly recommend: CozyQuest, Gemmed, Jabeh, Blue Defense, Blue Attack, geoDefense, Hospital Havoc
02-22-2009, 10:15 PM
Wow, any idea of how much that case/ solar charger is gonna be? Id love to have it!

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02-22-2009, 10:35 PM
Joined: Dec 2008
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 3,208
Wow, a solar charger would be amazing to have. My friend already has a regular one and it would be great to have with the iPod and its bad battery life. I can't get over the fact of a solar charger. It's Zen Bound all over again.

TA's resident ios rhythm game player
Former #1 Rhythm Control 2 Player (#2 now)
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Check out my Rhythm Game thread
02-23-2009, 03:54 AM
Joined: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,594
Originally Posted by THEDeliriumTrigger View Post
Wow, any idea of how much that case/ solar charger is gonna be? Id love to have it!
Couldn't find any pricing info - it's not even known when it's released (see http://www.goodcleantech.com/solar_energy/ )
12-23-2009, 11:33 PM
sounds intresting

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