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Virgin Mobile Lobster 700TV

  • Editors' rating
    6.2 Good

Pros

  • DAB radio and some TV stations to your mobile
  • Windows Mobile Smartphone software

Cons

  • No infra red or Wi-Fi
  • bulky and large
  • average to poor battery life

Virgin Mobile has come up with a smartphone first – a Windows Mobile Smartphone with support for DAB digital radio and TV built in. Technologically this is certainly quite an achievement, but does this HTC built handset really deliver?

Design

Anyone looking for a small and pocketable Windows Mobile Smartphone will be disappointed with the Lobster 700TV. At 140g it is nearly 50 percent heavier than many other handsets in this category, and at 111.2 mm tall, 58 mm wide and 23.8 mm deep it is quite sizeable too.

The shape is not consistent ‘candybar’: there is quite a bulge on the right side, the consequence, we assume, of the need to accommodate the TV and radio hardware. This doesn’t interfere with the ergonomics of use, the Lobster 700TV actually feels quite good in the hand. But it does make for a phone that the average executive or professional might feel does not quite deliver the right look for them.

In developing this handset HTC has not been able to build a larger than usual screen into the larger than usual casing, the display being a standard 240 x 320 pixels and 2.2 diagonal inches.

HTC has, though, been able to incorporate larger than usual Home, Back, Call and End keys, and these sit either side of a large navigation button designed with a single rounded and three square corners. Above this bank are the Windows Mobile Smartphone soft-menu keys, and below them the number pad which is again relatively large. The 3, 6, and 9 keys can be used to control TV and radio channels.

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On the bottom edge is the connector for stereo headset and mains power/synchronization cable. The left edge houses a volume rocker, the upper right edge a control for the camera whose lens is on the back of the casing.

Features

The Lobster 700TV is a Tri-band handset with GPRS. It has 70MB of internal storage memory, with the ability to accommodate microSD cards for expansion.

It is unfortunate that to swap cards you need to remove not only the device battery but also your SIM which lies underneath, as the expansion slot is beneath the SIM slot. This makes swapping cards a time consuming and over-fiddly procedure.

The DAB and TV service is provided by BT Movio, BT’s wholesale mobile broadcast entertainment service which was launched in September this year. At launch it was the self proclaimed first wholesale offering in the world to combine live TV, DAB digital radio, a seven-day programme guide and ‘red button’ interactivity for mobile phones.

We have reviewed the UBiQUiO phone from Expansys which does something similar, but receives conventional free analogue TV, and FM radio.

The DAB radio service in the Lobster offers up to 50 channels, and from our test location in South London we had access to almost the full range. The number you can receive will depend on where in the UK you are.

The number of TV stations available is fixed - and limited. Of the total number of four channels only three ‘simulcast’ their ordinary broadcasts. These are BBC1, ITV1 and digital channel E4. BT Movio says BBC1 is available on a year’s trial. Channel 4 is initially broadcasting its Short Cuts channel, a made for mobile TV channel which is comprised of mini-programmes. BT Movio says it expects a full Channel 4 simulcast to follow.

The TV service includes BT Movio’s seven-day programme guide which, irritatingly, you have to step through in half hour jumps. You can set reminders to watch a particular channel at a particular time, though. The TV on/off button doubles as providing access to interactive services, delivered where they exist via Pocket Internet Explorer.

To receive TV and radio you have to have the provided stereo headset plugged in, as this contains the required antenna. You can, though, play output through either the Lobster 700TV speaker or the headset.

In addition to the standard Windows Mobile Smartphone software, and PC synchronization there is a 1.3 megapixel camera. This lacks either a flash or self portrait mirror, and so is relatively limited in capability. It took reasonable quality photos during testing, though.

There is no infra red built in and not unsurprisingly, no Wi-Fi either. Bluetooth is here, though.

Performance & battery life

During testing TV and radio reception were both acceptable. TV is delivered in a box consuming around half of the area of the screen – i.e. the picture delivered is quite small. We found it surprisingly watchable nonetheless, but would not want to do so in long bursts.

We were unable to test picking up a signal when moving at speed, though, such as when on a train, but this may be impractical due to poor battery life anyway. A fully charged battery could only continuously display TV for three hours nine minutes. Our more standard music playback test, listening to MP3 music played from a microSD card with the screen forced to stay on got us eight hours and thirteen minutes of battery life.

The Lobster 700TV is certainly a clever idea, but presently the technology sounds better in theory than it actually is in practice. Battery life is too short, the hardware too clunky, and the range of TV channels available simply not broad enough. We expect this will all change in time, though.

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