The iPhone effectively replaced digital cameras and GPS devices, and now Escort MobileTV extends its reach to portable televisions. The MobileTV accessory works with iPhones and iPads, letting them receive broadcast television signals from the Dyle television network.
The MobileTV, essentially identical to the previously reviewed Elgato EyeTV Mobile, is a blocky little device with a 30-pin iPhone connector on one end and an antenna on the other. Despite the 30-pin connector, Escort says it needs an iPhone 4 or newer, ruling out its use with earlier iPhones. Likewise, it will only work with the fourth-generation iPod Touch or newer, but supports all iPads. For newer iOS devices, it needs the 30-pin-to-Lightning adapter.
There is also a Mini-USB port for charging on the end of the MobileTV accessory, as the device relies on an internal battery. A red LED on the black device shows when it is charging.
Connected to an iPhone or iPad, it sits neatly in the connector, adding its minimal, approximately 2x2-inch bulk. Hooking it up through a Lightning adapter to a newer iOS device makes it stick out a bit farther, and the whole apparatus feels more prone to being knocked loose.
Free app required
By itself, the MobileTV accessory does not do anything, as it needs the IDTV app to show television broadcasts on an iOS device. This app is free from the App Store, and available for iPhone or iPad.
However, the MobileTV and the IDTV app may not be enough to turn your iOS device into a portable television. It also needs to be within the Dyle television network's coverage area. Dyle includes a convenient coverage map on its Web site, which also shows which channels are available in each area.
Never heard of the Dyle television network? This service retransmits existing television network programming as a digital signal for mobile devices. The MobileTV will receive programming only from Dyle, and is not able to pick up any other over-the-air broadcasts. Dyle promises to offer access to its network free of charge through 2013.
This means the MobileTV can only get the channels Dyle carries, which in the San Francisco Bay Area is limited to five. From our testing, that meant Fox affiliate KTVU, NBC affiliate KNTV, independent KICU, Telemundo affiliate KSTS, and Qubo affiliate KXPX. New York appears to be the biggest market with eight broadcasters, including MyTV, and three local independents.
After a couple of setup screens, the IDTV app scanned for available channels. On our first test, performed within our sixth-floor office, it only came up with four of the five available. During a second test, outside in San Francisco, it found only four again, although a different set of channels. Although the IDTV app saves the channels it finds, it does not automatically rescan for channels every time you start it up or change location. You will have to run a manual scan to find available channels in different areas.