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July 2, 2008

Is Mobile TV ready for the commute?

GLOBAL – Mobile TV in the UK has yet to take off like it has in Japan
and Korea. If you pop over to Jan Chipchase’s Future Perfect blog you’ll discover an
interesting case study on how mobile TV is consumed over in Seoul, South Korea. Jan, who works for Nokia’s Design in Technology Platforms group, ruminates about many facets of society and technology while on his extensive travels. His entries on commuting and how it differs around the world are particularly fascinating.

Jan’s recent case study centres around eight participants and their mobile TV watching habits while commuting on a bus, on a macro breaks (for those, like me, who haven’t come across such terminology, a macro break is a moment between other planned activities – natch) and relaxing at home.

If we concentrate on the commuting aspect, the study revealed that mobile TV was best watched on the ride home rather than the journey into work. It suggests that morning ‘tends to include high pressure task such as eating breakfast (?), managing appearance, getting to work on time, so it’s less conducive to relaxed watching.

While watching mobile TV hasn’t really hit the UK as a mobile commuting activity (web browsing – yes, cartoons on a loop – no) most of my UK colleagues would probably agree that the morning trek into the city is quite a productive time to check and reply to emails (not to mention macro breaks!) using their mobile device before the work really starts. This may have something to do with the differences in the extremities of commuting in South Korea to the UK and the mode of transport we take. And as the case study also reveals, watching mobile TV, especially on a bus, has some obstacles and externalities to overcome to obviously become a worthwhile commuting pastime.

Signal failure, handset size, traffic, quality of transport, limited privacy, wet weather, keeping track of time and looking out for your stop to alight all contribute to how successful your mobile TV watching experience on the fly becomes and the research shows a one hour commute may only equate to around 15 minutes of suitable watching. That’s half an episode of Friends or a quarter of The Sopranos. Is it worth it?

Of course, if we’re not grazing through our emails, then the average UK commuter will be seen listening to music. And Jan’s findings also highlight that ‘music is a better mood regulator than watching mobile TV.’ Judging by this last finding and the difficulties the Korean case study participants faced, mobile TV may take a long time to influence the UK’s commuting habits.

But what about you? What do you do during the commute to work on a bus or train? Is it work email checking, mobile TV watching or a blast of your favourite tunes to prepare you for the vagaries of work? Let us know.