NEW YORK — In this modern era of binge, on-demand, anywhere/anytime TV, you have numerous ways to overdose on television. If you're not downloading something to watch on your tablet, smartphone or computer, you're getting your fix by streaming.
Still, for many TV addicts there's nothing like the immediacy of live television — to catch the big game, keep up with the news, and to watch other shows when they're being broadcast.
But there's a lot of static associated with mobile television, and I'm not necessarily referring to poor reception. Consider that even if what you want to watch live is streamed to your phone or tablet via an app or by way of the Web, costs can pile up if you're relying on a cellular connection without an unlimited data plan. In other words, kiss your monthly data allotment bye-bye fast, maybe even before you discover whodunit on your favorite show. And you're out of luck altogether if you lack access to the Internet.
The folks behind the Dyle Mobile TV platform are attempting to avoid such scenarios with the wireless Audiovox Mobile TV receiver that I've been testing. The pocket-size $130 accessory turns compatible iOS and Android devices into portable televisions. But there's a ginormous drawback: There are way too few station options.
Too bad because the Dyle/Audiovox pitch would otherwise appeal to the person who can't get enough TV: Once you've paid for the gizmo — which can be found for as little as $100 — you won't be subjected to ongoing subscription fees. That's different from rival mobile TV service Aereo, which charges $8 a month under its basic plan.
Moreover, because you don't rely on cellular using the Audiovox, there's no data plan to put at risk. In fact, you don't even need a separate Internet connection because the Audiovox device establishes its own dedicated Wi-Fi hot spot, used to transmit the TV signal to the corresponding Dyle app on your phone or tablet. The app was developed by Siano, an Israeli company that is a major supplier of mobile broadcast technology.
The Audiovox MobileTV gadget and its companion service Dyl show promise but are not quite ready for prime time, says USA TODAY Personal Tech columnist Ed Baig
To pull down the signal from Dyle, you raise a telescopic antenna on the Audiovox, a compact white box that reminds me of a container of breath mints.
A little context: Dyle's Mobile TV service is backed by a consortium of broadcasting companies that includes Fox, NBC and Gannett, which own USA TODAY. The Audiovox device is not the only portable device that is compatible with Dyle. Elgato makes an EyeTV Mobile TV Tuner for iPhones and iPads, and RCA sells a Mobile TV Android tablet.
Dyle's mobile TV reach touches 38 markets, or about 57% of the U.S. Since Dyle has the blessing of broadcasters and TV networks, there's none of the litigation clouding its service that there is with Aereo, which relies on remote antenna technology to receive over-the-air broadcasts. Aereo has been sued by broadcasters looking to put it out of business but has prevailed to date in the courts.
More than 120 over-the-air stations are compatible with Dyle's Mobile TV, but station availability varies considerably. In the New York City area, I could only get four channels: local Fox and NBC stations, plus Qubo (programming for kids), and WNJU which broadcasts in Spanish.
You have a few more Dyle choices in markets such as Dallas, which adds local ABC and CBS affiliates to Fox and NBC; and in Atlanta, which adds PBS to the four major broadcast networks. Go to the Dyle.tv website to check out coverage and available stations in your area before you buy. TV station owners would have to upgrade their equipment to make their channels Dyle-ready, at a cost, Dyle claims, of about $100,000. For now there are no premium cable-type channels available.
Another turnoff had to do with NFL football. A recent prime-time game that was broadcast on NBC was blacked out inside the Dyle app because I later learned Dyle doesn't have the rights to broadcast the NFL. Instead, the app ran a Magnum, P.I. rerun on NBCUniversal-owned Cozi TV. Dyle says the NFL is the only major sport that it doesn't have the rights to broadcast, but it was hard to be forgiving when the program guide inside the Dyle app listed the football game as being shown.
To a far lesser degree I was bothered by the several seconds it took to switch from one channel to another. You can pause or rewind a show, but there's no way to record a show on the Audiovox as there is on Aereo. The Aero service also is only available in limited markets but does give you more viewing choices in those markets. I counted 32 available Aereo channels in New York.
Dyle's mobile TV signal is not high-definition but not bad for the smaller screen. Except for the odd momentary hiccup, I managed to hold onto a signal during a 40-minute bus ride from northern New Jersey toward Manhattan, at least until I got into the Lincoln Tunnel. Audiovox promises about four hours of battery life before you have to charge it via USB.
The Audiovox device provides a simple and relatively inexpensive way to watch TV on your phone or tablet and would appear to be on the front edge of a still nascent space. But for now anyway, the viewing options are too limiting for the average TV junkie. And I want the NFL.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow @edbaig on Twitter.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Pro. Pocket-size device can provide live TV to smartphones and tablets. No data plan or Internet required.
Con. Too few viewing choices in major markets. No NFL (and program guide gave faulty information).