Barcelona: Mobintech, a Denmark-based group, believes it has found the solution to the mobile phone industry’s problem of trying to offer television and video services on a tiny screen.
“The logic of our product is that everyone wants to push mobile television at the moment but there are obstacles,” says marketing director Soren Peterson.
“The first is the size of the screen. If you’re watching football you can’t see the ball. If it’s boxing, you don’t know who is hitting who.”
The group’s proposition is a chunky pair of futuristic-looking glasses that connect to the phone, which when worn by a viewer give the impression of watching a 30-inch (76-centimetre) television at a distance of two metres.
Stephanie Pittet, an analyst at IT and telecom research group Gartner, says such accessories are likely to remain niche. The whiff of “geekiness” and the limited applications for the product are likely to hold them back.
“The problems for the development of video have been things other than the screen, being more from the service provider side or from the network infrastructure,” she told AFP.
As a trend, screens on mobile phones are getting larger and of higher resolution. High-end phones are now adequate for viewing photos and short videos and handsets must remain small lest they begin to look like computers.
“There will be a limit (to the size of the screen) because it’s called a mobile after all,” said Dominique Oh, Europe director for South Korean phone manufacturer LG.
The obvious craze for the mobile industry in terms of screen technology, as seen at this year’s Mobile World Congress industry event in Barcelona, is for touch-screen capabilities.
This follows the success of the Apple iPhone, launched last year, which jettisoned the alphanumeric keypad in favour of pure touch-screen controls.
This was said by analysts to be a risk, but user experience and the popularity of the device indicate widespread approval.
“Apple has absolutely redefined the proposition,” said Shiv Bakhshi, chief handset analyst at market research group IDC.
Caroline Milanesi, another analyst at the Gartner group, said the “the main focus is touch-screen” for manufacturers at the moment.
“Since the introduction of the iPhone, it has set the bar for how easy it is to interact with multimedia,” she says, referring to video, Internet and photos. “This is what everyone has been focusing on.”
Oh from LG stressed the touch-screen capabilities in the latest product offerings from the Korean manufacturer, but also underlined that some segments of the market still felt more comfortable with the older technology.
“In the future, the new generation will use touch-screen, but for me I feel more confident using an alphanumeric keypad,” he said, explaining that fans of the new technology tended to be younger than 35.
As Internet and multimedia use increases, the desire for bigger screens is likely to grow.
Mobile providers are keen for phone owners to use their handsets for more than just calls and texting, for which profits are declining in developed countries -- with Internet browsing, television, games and mapping the basis of future product offerings.
“There is still room to increase the size (of screens) and reduce the thinkness (of phones),” said Oh.
Whether the desire for bigger screens will be enough to create a viable market for the makers of “personal display glasses” like Mobintech remains to be seen.
Grant Russell, a director of US-based group Vuzix which has developed a similar product to Mobintech, points to statistics predicting the exponential growth in the number of users downloading videos onto their phones in the next few years.
“I’m hoping a reasonable percentage of these might want a secondaray screen,” he told AFP.
“The closer they get to sunglasses the more commonplace we expect them to become.”
Mobintech’s product is not compatible with any phones at present, requiring special video-enabling software. Vuzix’s glasses are on sale in the United States and Japan and will soon launch in Europe.