The Dyle service from Metro PCS is a free way to watch TV on mobile phones, but reception isn't perfect.
Dyle is the answer for people who can't live without their favorite daytime talk shows and soap operas. Essentially a mobile TV service that picks up special broadcasts of local TV channels, Dyle allows you to get programming anywhere you have your handset or smartphone. In the works for years, it's finally launched on the Samsung Galaxy S Lightray 4G, which MetroPCS began selling today.
The service is run by a consortium of broadcasters around the country, jointly known as Mobile Content Venture. Following the Lightray are a few other Dyle products, including dongles that can connect to an iPad or iPhone, turning it into a portable TV. Don't get your hopes up, though; the Lightray isn't a handset from some far-flung future. Sadly, it's a perfectly generic smartphone, aside from a retractable antenna that needs to be extended in order to grab the Dyle broadcast signal.
Dyle mobile TV debuts on Galaxy S Lightray 4G (pictures)
There are definitely a few things to like about Dyle. First, the service is free once you buy the phone. It also works pretty well, picking up four local channels in the New York area. Coverage and the number of channels available will vary from market to market, though, and not every city will get the service initially. That said, because it runs off of a separate broadcast network, it doesn't take a bite out of your cellular data allowance, which is great if you're worried about MetroPCS throttling your connection at the end of the month.
Dyle, in some ways, competes with Aereo, which offers streaming over-the-air TV service, and on August 2 introduced a free trial option. But Dyle is a bit more bare-bones, offering just the live channels with no option to save or record programs for later viewing. While the service is free with a standard phone plan, the price of entry is fairly high. The phone, which launched today, costs $459, or $80 more than the next most expensive phone in MetroPCS' lineup. Of course that price doesn't include an onerous two- or even one-year service contract.
I only had a chance to use the Dyle application around the office, but I was pleased with what I got. Of course, I went into this with fairly low expectations. The service was able to locate four channels: NBC, Fox, the children's channel Qubo, and Telemundo. The problem is it only ever picked up three channels at once (and really just two most of the time). The upside was NBC was usually one of them, allowing me to catch a few swimming events live while at work.
The app comes with a handy guide that tells you what programs are coming up. By clicking on a future show, you also get a synopsis and option to set a reminder to watch later. The video stream was fairly smooth as well, although it did stutter a bit when I moved my test phone around. Generally, though, when it worked, it worked well.
Unfortunately, Dyle didn't always function flawlessly. I can probably chalk it up to thick walls in my office, which make cellphone calls a herculean challenge, but with that factored in coverage was still inconsistent. Even when the phone's spotty coverage wasn't an issue, Dyle winked out, and vice versa. I also wasn't a big fan of the retractable antenna, which artificially ages the phone and will more than likely open you up to ridicule.
Dyle has another big drawback in my view. With only three channels, I'm not sure if the service is really worth it. I look forward to testing it outside, however, to see the extent of the coverage and whether I'll be able to pick up more channels. And for big events like the Olympics, or even at tailgating parties before major games, this service could come in handy.
As I previously mentioned, the phone itself doesn't offer top-of-the-line specs, although they are right in line with the better phones offered by prepaid wireless carriers. If it looks familiar to you, that's because it's identical to the Galaxy S Aviator at U.S. Cellular, minus the antenna.
The Lightray comes with an 8-megapixel LED flash shooter on the back, and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for photos and videos. The phone is powered by a 1GHz processor, and runs on Android 2.3, aka Gingerbread. Dyle's TV service is decently displayed on the phone's 4.3-inch Super AMOLED touch screen. Underneath the screen are four physical buttons, for menu, home, back, and search. The phone comes with a 16GB microSD card, with 1.38GB of internal memory available.
The Samsung Galaxy S Lightray 4G also has an HDMI-out connection, although it disappointingly doesn't work with Dyle, so outputting TV signals to HDTVs is out of the question. The Lightray is also the first MetroPCS phone to offer a mobile hot-spot feature, allowing other Wi-Fi devices to run off of its cellular connection. To be clear, while MetroPCS technically uses 4G LTE in its network, the data speeds are more like 3G.
Certainly the Dyle service is still in its infancy, so I look forward to seeing how it progresses.