updated 03:40 pm EST, Thu December 31, 2009
Softbank 1Seg app for iPhone untethers the two
Softbank this week revealed plans to give its iPhone 1Seg TV tuner an official iPhone app. The upcoming TV Mobile app will let those with an iPhone 3G or 3GS watch over-the-air TV from the tuner without having to keep the peripheral near the Apple device as they do today. Rather than create a short-range connection over Wi-Fi, the app can be set to stream TV from the tuner over the Internet to a distant iPhone, using a local Wi-Fi router to give the 1Seg add-on its connection.
The Japanese carrier does set out some limitations for the tuner and notes the iPhone can only stream whenever it's on Wi-Fi, not on 3G. Also, it's recommended the tuner attach to a router or a similar power source over USB since its battery is likely to run dry quickly with always-on reception.
TV Mobile should be available soon through Japan's version of the App Store and will be free as an initial download, though only for a short trial period to setup and test the connection; inside the app, Softbank charges 1,000 yen (about $11) for unrestricted access. The software doesn't support the iPod touch.
Creating the app removes a potential barrier to iPhone adoption in Japan. While the top-selling smartphone by a wide margin, it has yet to draw a large part of the overall Japanese phone market partly due to an absence of Japan-native features. The Softbank tuner has been available for over a year, but its need for a short-range USB or Wi-Fi connection, its short battery life and non-native viewing approach have meant sacrificing much more versus phones from Hitachi, Sharp and others that often have the tuner and viewing software built-in. [via Impress]