I've always been scared around gadgets and software. And in awe of people who're good with them. After three years of science and tech reporting though, I think I'm starting to get the hang of things. Before this, I covered automobiles, health, careers and business, for seven years. Nice thing about technology is, it lets me poach into all those fields once in a while. I love this job. But I'm not sure how I managed to land it. I did my BA in Advertising from Delhi College of Arts and Commerce and MA in Journalism from Madurai Kamaraj University. I wanted to be a cartoonist, a guitar player and a footballer but sucked in all those fields. I can play the flute and harmonica though. And I have an interest in machines that move - it was cars and bikes earlier but considering there's nothing revolutionary happening there, it's military stuff now. I'm the sort who drools over figures. Not the 36-24-36 types. But top speed, acceleration, fuel consumption, drag co-efficient. I drive an Alto though. And usually take the Metro to work.
Many people I've met say they'd never want to watch TV on a tiny cell phone screen. I'm actually quite kicked by the idea. It's somehow - liberating. For a TV junkie like me, it could be a way of reclaiming my self control. The evil idiot box squeezed into my hand - might make it easier to switch off, some how.
Well, there's good money in mobile TV. And no - businessmen don't give two hoots about my self control, or the lack of it. We're a country of 800 million plus cell phones. Many of us are either stuck in traffic, or on long commutes, or simply city hopping.
Some of us are of course, rich enough to watch TV on our tablet PCs or laptops. But there are millions of factory workers, villagers, rickshaw pullers, bus drivers, college students and salesmen on the go, who'd want to catch up on the latest about Anna Hazare. Or watch that cricket match. Or that Bollywood item number. That's a market right?
I've come across four firms in the business. Apalya, Mundu TV, Zenga TV and now, the latest entrant, Jigsee. They work on any phone that can connect to the web and support JAVA. I think that means any phone that costs above Rs 3,500. They also work on all Android phones. The nice part is, I don't need a high bandwidth, expensive internet connection.
All I need apparently is to download and install a free application from their company website. That creates an icon on my phone screen, which I click on. I'm presented with a choice of channels - from CNN IBN to Vijay TV, from Colors to UTV. I can pick full length movies or half hour soap operas or even two min videos.
During the IPL season companies like Zenga apparently made a killing, streaming live matches. Jigsee doesn't offer anything live - they have pre-recorded shows and interestingly, hand picked YouTube tutorials from The Khan Academy. Those are famous, easily understandable tutorials for Maths and Science students. Cool!
From the little research I've done, while there's SOME free stuff you can watch, the more interesting video comes with a small subscription fee. It could vary from ten rupees for ten days for a few channels at Zenga to a hundred and fifty rupees for a hundred and fifty channels for a month at Apalya. Jigsee says it doesn't charge any subscription fee.
The OTHER charge you have to cough up and this time to your telecom service provider, is for the data you consume. As a rough thumb rule, one minute of video seems to equal one MB of data. Depending on the sort of data plan you've signed up for, your company could charge you anywhere between a few paise to a rupee or more, for every MB of data you use.
Here's a small point on the side. If you search on Google with a query like "RTSP, Indian TV", you'll come across a lot of tech blogs offering clickable links. Geeks often use those links to stream TV on the internet and sometimes, on their phones.
But Gagandeep Sapra, an expert I spoke to suggested that might be immoral - those links essentially offer pirated, illegal content. Also, he pointed out, not all of them will play properly on your cell. Their video size is not always optimized for our phone screens.
Coming back to legit options, Apalaya claims it's got some 6.5 million users signed up for its service. Zenga claims 7 million. So I wasn't wrong. There are plenty of folks out there who'll watch TV on a tiny screen.