Verizon's V CAST video service

For some reason, Verizon thought that people wanted to watch video clips on their mobile phones, so they launched a $15-per-month service to deliver them.

"Lost" recap. This is the
best the image quality gets.
To receive them, you need an EV-DO phone. EV-DO is a new data transmission standard, allowing compatible phones to receive data at typical speeds of 400-800 Kbps and peak speeds of 1.5 Mbps. EV-DO coverage is available in a bunch of big cities, and Verizon keeps adding more. Sprint just launched their version, but it's not as widely available yet.

With such a great high-speed data network, Verizon could have greatly improved their Mobile Web service, which currently allows you to view little "web pages" (using WAP, a very stripped-down version of HTML) but only within the Verizon content site, which contains almost nothing. Or they could have greatly improved the sound quality of voice calls. Or they could have allowed their phones to act as high-speed modems for laptops and PDAs.

Instead, they've chosen this opportunity to give us low-quality video service... for all of those opportunities most people get throughout the day to stare at their phone's 2-inch screen for 5-10 minutes to watch a movie or news report.

Assuming that someone actually finds this useful and worth $15 per month, what's it like?

Connecting to the service takes about 10 seconds with full reception, or 30-50 seconds with weak reception. Then you're greeted with a wonderful message familiar to streaming video users.

Buffering. Great. The initial buffering takes about 10-20 more seconds with good reception. If reception decreases at all during playback, which is likely if you're moving at all or the wind is blowing in the wrong direction, it pauses to buffer more. Any less than full reception, and it's like watching RealVideo streams in 1999 over a 56K modem from an overloaded server.

From launching the V CAST browser to the beginning of video playback, you'd be lucky to wait less than 30 seconds. You'll likely be waiting a minute or two. So to take advantage of V CAST, you need a situation where you're relatively stationary for at least a few minutes and you actually want to watch a grainy 3-minute video clip.

So what's available?

NBC News

Desperate Housewives

Sesame Street

You can get few-minute news summaries from NBC News and CNN, few-minute episode recaps from popular TV series, and scene clips from Sesame Street - for all of those young children who have EV-DO mobile phones and V CAST plans, of course.

You can even download music videos for popular songs... for an extra $3.99 each. Yes, I'm serious. Verizon expects customers to pay $4 for a music video, viewable only on their phones with 2-inch screens with bad monaural sound through a speakerphone. I can't fathom why anyone would actually do this.

The video quality is mediocre at best. It's highly compressed "3G" MPEG-4, but it looks like old MPEG-1 video clips from The 7th Guest. They're about 176x144 at 15 frames per second. Compression artifacts are very noticeable, especially in dark or moving scenes. It's like watching movies filmed with a $30 webcam from 1998 in a dimly-lit room.

The audio frequently loses synchronization with the video, which is particularly annoying when watching news anchors deliver a story. While I'm not willing to pay $4 to find out, I imagine this is particularly fatal for a music video.

The video selection isn't great, either: the various categories only have 3-8 videos each, and most of them are only updated weekly.

I can think of many better things to do with $15 every month.

Rated 1/5


Verizon is solving a problem that nobody has. And they're not solving it very well. It's a novelty at best, but it's certainly not worth paying for.