by Coop Cooper
Most of us realize by now how useful our ‘smart’ cellular phones and tablets can be but most of us might not be aware of their full capabilities. Of course you can watch a TV show or movie on such a device if you download it beforehand or stream it via a wifi connection, but did you know you could beam that show to a nearby wifi-enabled TV? Even if your phone or TV doesn’t have that feature, you could easily find the proper phone-to-TV wire connector to achieve the same result. Imagine that… You basically have a portable HD Blu Ray player in your pocket and you didn’t even realize it. While that sounds impressive, it is merely scratching the surface of how your current (and next) cell phone will deliver entertainment.
Watching a movie or TV show on your phone used to be a novelty and a bit impractical in its early stages. My first device capable of this was a 2006 Blackberry phone with a two-inch screen. First a digital version the film needed to be tracked down and downloaded on a computer (as a torrent if I remember correctly) then converted to a file the Blackberry could read. The movie could then be transferred to the Blackberry via USB cable and then it could be watched on the phone. Afterwards, you needed to delete the video file off of your phone so you would have enough space to upload the next one. It was a lengthy, tiring process just to see one movie on a screen the size of a couple of postage stamps. Apple streamlined this idea with the first iPhone where you simply needed to buy and download the movie from iTunes then sync it to your device. Fast wifi (if you can get it) and streaming made the process even more convenient and now most of us are used to downloading videos straight off of our cellular data plans. Phone screens are progressively getting bigger and more comfortable on the eyes. Compare the iPhone 5 to the two new iPhone 6 sizes and the difference is monumental.
At one point, I predicted the use of these devices using cellular data or wifi would be curbed due to data plan restrictions, but luckily services are beginning to increase those limits to meet the demands of wireless video for the consumer. Free wifi is becoming more common every year but a fast, solid connection is still sometimes hard to find. Libraries, gyms and coffee shops are your best bet, but affordable home options are often bundled with cable and satellite services. Many of these services offer a tethering feature where you can stream cable/satellite programming to your phone or tablet anywhere. You can watch your normal TV content anywhere within the range, from your bathroom to the backyard. Those ranges continue to improve and some experts predict free public wifi for most municipalities in the very near future.
The paid services for watching content are becoming more common and affordable: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Vudu, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes… The options are endless. There are also some options for free content. If a movie is more than ten years old, try looking it up on Netflix. You might find it, but don’t expect full HD quality video.
Video streaming is not restricted to movies,TV and web clips. You can also keep an eye on your home using certain home security systems with camera feeds you can view live on your phone. If you’re catching onto the new ‘flying camera’ craze, you can use your phone in tandem with the new generation of flying camera drones. In essence, you can see what the drone sees live on your phone screen as you (or somebody else) flies it around or even use your phone as the controller. There are range and quality limits to this, but these many of these limits are currently being broken with the next generation of consumer-grade drones. Even more impressive, virtual reality companies are teaming up with phone developers to create immersive virtual reality goggles that will use smartphones as the hardware for the VR technology. That means in the next couple of years, you could plug a pair of VR glasses into your phone, activate a game and explore an alien world or simulate a theater-sized movie screen wherever you are. At this rate, more uses for cellphone video will be developed and announced regularly from now until the tech is replaced with something even more incredible.
In regards to the upcoming ‘net neutrality’ battle brewing in Washington D.C., no one is sure (no matter now much anyone claims to understand the issue) how the outcome will limit or restrict data streaming for entertainment purposes. I’d err on the optimistic side considering how the technology and wifi/cell data speeds, including prices, continue to improve. As they do, there is no predicting where pocket entertainment will take us in the next ten years, but it is a good bet it will be every bit as impressive as the last ten.