Looking into the future, concept artists often equip their dream iPhones with built-in pico projectors. That feature probably isn't coming to an iPhone anytime soon, but Micron Technology's upcoming $99 Pop Video pico projector accessory may be the next best thing.
The key feature here is the 30-pin connector that allows you to dock your iPhone or iPod, forming one compact unit. While some of the larger pico projectors like the have an integrated dock, the Pop Video is designed to be much more portable, fitting into a pocket when not in use.
Brookstone is offering up a similarly styled pico projector that's simply called the Pocket Projector for iPhone 4, but its native resolution is lower (640 x 360 pixels) than the Pop Video's (960 x 540 pixels) and the Brookstone accessory costs $229.
I've listed the Pop Video's main specs below, but some specs are missing and questions remain. For instance, I didn't see a listing for brightness -- the Brookstone unit is a 15 lumens projector, which just isn't all that bright.
I presume the Pop Video is somewhere in that range but no number is given (I'll add it to the post when I get it). The Micron projector also doesn't appear to have a built-in speaker like the Brookstone unit does but I haven't been able to verify that. I doubt Brookstone's integrated speaker is much better than the iPhone's internal speaker, but it's worth talking about sound with these tiny projectors because it's more important than you think. Putting up a big image on the wall with tiny sound just doesn't cut it.
- Dimensions: 4.4 inches x 1.8 inches x .6 inch (HWD)
- Weight: 3.5 ounces (97g)
- Input: 30-pin dock connector
- Video Output: qHD (960 x 540 pixel resolution)
- Battery: Built-in Lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Playtime: Up to two hours with full battery charge
- Charging: Micro-USB charging (1.2 compliant)
- Charge time: About 4 hours
- iOS version: 5.0 and greater
- Compatible with iPhone 4/4S and gen-3 and 4 iPod Touch
- Price: $99 (available for preorder now)
As for the light engine inside the Pop Video, Micron apparently uses something called FLCOS microdisplay technology, which is cheaper to produce and allegedly more energy efficient. Chances are the Pop Video can project a passable image at fairly large sizes, but you'll need to project in a dark room for best results (as the manual states) and I don't expect to be wowed.
All that said, this is definitely a big step in the right direction for the pico projector market -- both in terms of price point and form factor. The killer app for these types of projectors has always been tighter integration with the iPhone (and other smartphones eventually) that makes it much easier to project without attaching any kluge cables. To that end, the projector is designed to be used with a free app that allows you to tweak the projector settings and more importantly, projector more content directly from your iPhone, including Web pages, Facebook, and videos downloaded from iTunes or iTunes U that are not MPEG 3 protected. At least that's what the description for the app claims.
When I get my hands on a unit I'll let you know just how good the image is. As I said, it's unclear when the Pop Video will ship, but hopefully it will be within the next few months, if not sooner.