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Lobster 700TV review

The smallest TV on sale or a radio with pictures?

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Our Verdict

Those looking specifically for a 'TV phone' may be disappointed but other features such as DAB are a real plus

For

  • Very easy to use

Against

  • Sound and picture quality hit and miss

Fifty-inch plasma TVs are a common sight these days, but fashion is towards the tiny with this, the first TV phone to get its pictures from the digital radio network.

The service it displays, BT Movio, only started broadcasting in October. Only available on Virgin Mobile so far, it comprises five channels: BBC One, Channel 4 Short Cuts, E4, ITN and ITV1. Similar TV services are available on Vodafone, Orange and Three's 3G mobile networks, but this is the first time that BBC One and E4 have been accessible by any phone. And yes, you will need a TV licence.

There's nothing fishy about the Lobster 700TV's shell, where the untrained eye would strain to see any immediate difference to more common handsets. Bulkier, perhaps, and dominated by its screen, but it certainly doesn't shout 'steal me'.

Selecting the DAB mode, which includes up to 50 DAB radio stations as well as TV channels, is via a dedicated control on the phone's, err, elbow, that can also select Internet Explorer (this is a Windows-powered phone after all).

Selecting a channel from the list does involve waiting about 10 or 15 seconds for 'buffering', exactly like watching media online, but once loaded is fairly stable - unless you're on the move. Take the Lobster on a trip and the constant buffering is highly irritating. DAB radio is a lot more reliable and tunes in immediately, although a 'station not currently broadcasting' was incorrectly flashed up several times for major BBC stations.

Vertical picture

While it may have made more sense for the TV picture to be presented sideways on the portrait-size screen, the image is shown across the screen with web browser-style bars at top and bottom. Underneath are two options, TV Guide or Menu. TV Guide simply returns to the five-strong channel line-up, while menu allows you to operate the loudspeaker or switch to DAB radio.

Sound is provided either through the supplied headphones or via this Lobster's loudspeaker. The quality from TV/DAB radio is reasonable, suffering from the same intermittent judder as the picture, while the headphones double up as the aerial and must be attached at all times.

Copyright problems mean some programmes can't be broadcast by this method and are replaced by a message to that effect, a blank screen or some recorded/repeated content. More importantly, just as the case with high-definition TV, the BBC's channel is part of a trial and likely to be switched off in October 2007.

Still, a phone with access to DAB radio is a tempting proposition in itself and there are enough extras on board this easy-to-use phone - TV, Internet access, Windows Media player and web-based emailing - to make this a very smart smartphone. If only it had been available during the World Cup.