updated 03:45 pm EDT, Thu April 9, 2009
FLO TV iPhone In Works
Qualcomm today revealed that it's developing an add-on that could give several smartphones, including the iPhone, a tuner for FLO TV digital broadcasts. The communications firm's FLO TV head Bill Stone remarks to SAI that iPhone OS 3.0's support for third-party hardware has set Qualcomm to developing an external receiver that could give both the iPhone and iPod touch, as well as other smartphones, access to the over-the-air TV service. When it would ship isn't yet certain, as is whether it would use the Dock Connector or else attach wirelessly.
The device wouldn't be the first to bring TV to the iPhone, as a SoftBank 1Seg tuner gives Japanese customers broadcasts, but would be the first with the potential to use a more battery-efficient connection to provide video. SoftBank's peripheral attaches through USB but only to pool batteries, and needs power-consuming Wi-Fi to transmit the actual video.
Stone explains the motivation as "all about scale" and says that the company is also looking to create equivalent tuners for other smartphones, like Windows Mobile devices. All FLO TV-capable phones to date have been simpler "feature phones" like the LG Invision and so have had relatively limited reach and popularity, particularly with availability limited to AT&T and Verizon.
FLO TV (previously MediaFLO) has also faced concerns over the cost of its service, which needs a subscription that typically ranges between $15 and $20 in addition to regular cellphone plans. Coverage is also a concern as only some major cities have FLO TV networks.