March 22nd, 2005

VCast – Exceeded Most of My Expectations

I finally visited an EV-DO city and had the opportunity to trial VCast. At first I couldn’t get it to work because there wasn’t enough memory available to buffer the content. (I had the phone about one week before heading to CTIA. Since I was unable to view video, I took the opportunity to trial some of the 3D games).

The video experience was good due to the buffering upfront and the ability to switch the screen to landscape. After a couple of days, I was a bit impatient with the buffering process, but it wasn’t too bad. Once streaming video can match the quality of this experience, I think this could be a hit. Our consumer surveys show that only one percent of cell phone users have trialed mobile video, but the data also show that interest is much higher. (I have a report due out in a few weeks that will include detailed findings.)

I liked the experience, but I was also curious to see how others would react. Whenever I was near other folks and just hanging around (e.g., lining up for the “A” seating on Southwest airlines), I would turn it on. The reaction from folks around me was “wow, that’s pretty cool. Can I get that?” (And, no, they were not all referring to the stuffed moose phone covering – though many of the women were)

I handed the phone around and let people play with it. Our surveys show that the target audience for content on phones skews towards a younger audience. I asked people their ages. Folks in their fifties and sixties were also very intrigued.

If I had any complaints about the service, they would be around how current the video clips are. I spent a lot of time in the airports on Day 1 of the NCAA tournament. I really wanted “live” updates, but the best I could do was NIT results from earlier in the week. Other small complaint was on the handset – I couldn’t crank up the volume high enough to hear it in either the airport or on the plane. I guess that could be intentional on the part of the hand set manufacturer. Yes, I could have used a head set, but the only ear phones that I had with me were for my iPod.

Last complaint … it’s still not available in San Francisco.

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