Virgin Mobile – Lobster 700TV review

TV on a mobile, and it works too
Photo of Virgin Mobile – Lobster 700TV
£199 on pay as you go, 90 days free TV and radio then £5 a month, free on contracts of £25 or more

There are already plenty of TV-like services for mobiles, delivering various clips and made-for-mobile type materials. But the Lobster 700TV, exclusive to Virgin Mobile, is something different. It is a mobile on which you can watch TV just as you would on your main telly at home.

Well, up to a point. The Lobster 700TV is the first handset to utilise BT Movio, something the telecoms company is offering as a service to whoever wants to buy it. It uses an enhanced version of DAB to deliver a limited number of TV stations along with the full gamut of DAB radio stations (up to 50, depending on where you are).

What you get, then, isn’t quite what you’d get from your TV in terms of spread of channels. BBC1, ITV1 and the digital channel E4 are delivered just as they are on ordinary television – the word is ‘simulcast’. Except that apparently some American, sports and film content won’t be available.

The other TV channel available at launch is Channel 4, but this is only delivering its Short Cuts, made-for-mobile channel at the moment. Simulcasting is expected to come along later.

Does it work? Yes it does.

You have to have the headset plugged in as this is where the antenna sits, just as you normally do with any handset that has an FM radio built in. You choose a channel or radio station, it tunes in, and away you go.

If there is interactive content (which there often isn’t) you can get that by ‘pressing red’ – the same button on the right-hand side of the Lobster 700TV that you use to turn TV and radio on and off in the first place. Pocket Internet Explorer kicks in to offer you the content. There’s a seven day programme guide too.

TV pictures aren’t too bad, though the screen is obviously too small for prolonged watching. But then again, on a battery rundown test we only got three hours of TV anyway, so when you are using the Lobster 700TV while out and about you are going to have to ration watching. Constant music playback off a full battery charge with the screen forced to stay on achieved eight hours of music, on the upside of average but not stunning.

The mention of Pocket Internet Explorer above might have given away to you the fact that this is a Windows Mobile device. Its is a Windows Mobile Smartphone to be precise, and you get the usual ActiveSync software, connecting cable, and onboard diary, contact management, e-mail, Windows Media Player and other software that comes as part of the deal. And there is a 1.3-megapixel camera too.

Apart from poor battery life, the other main turn-off is the overall size of the Lobster 700TV. At 111.2mm tall, 58mm wide and 23.8mm deep and weighing 140g it is both larger and heavier than a lot of other handsets. The bulge on the right-hand side isn’t exactly pretty, either.

Company: Virgin Mobile

Contact: 0845 6000 070

The Lobster 700TV works, and it works pretty well. But its TV channel range is limited, it is large and heavy and the battery life is something of a let-down. We aren't sure we are quite ready yet to give up our neat, small, pocket-friendly phone just to get mobile TV.