Escort MobileTV review: Turn your iPhone into a TV

Escort MobileTV
The IDTV app lets you select channels using the iOS scroll menu. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

The interface of the app makes it easy to skip through the available channels, either with arrow buttons or on an iOS menu wheel. IDTV has a TiVo-like function that lets you pause a program, rewind, or fast forward, depending on how it is saved in its buffer. The channel list function also shows current programs.

Using it to watch the available channels on an iPhone 5, we had better luck outside of the building. Inside, only two channels came through, and one lacked audio. Outside, we had all four picked up on our channel scan until the signal from one dropped out. Again, one of the channels lacked audio.

The video quality was good, although occasional interference caused digital artifacts on the display. The app defaulted to a wide-screen display, filling the iPhone 5's screen. On the settings menu, we could change the aspect ratio and choose closed-captioning options.

Competition
As mentioned above, this product appears to be all but identical to the Elgato EyeTV Mobile . Given that the Elgato product can currently be found for closer to $80, it's a better deal for anyone interested in the Escort.

Those wanting to use the iPad or iPhone as a TV viewing device can also opt for the Slingbox , which streams any video from a cable, satellite box, or DVR -- but pricing starts at $180, plus a steep $15 for viewing apps. Dish customers can opt for the Dish Hopper with Sling DVR (new for 2013), which includes the Slingbox functionality built-in -- and with free viewing apps, to boot. But that product only works for Dish satellite customers.

Beyond hardware, there's a boatload of online services -- Netflix and Hulu Plus subscriptions ($8/month each), pay-per-view services like iTunes, and Amazon Instant, which offers both. Any of these offer plenty of viewing choices if you're willing to pay for it, but none offer live streaming TV.

Those who already subscribe to cable or satellite can use one of the many "TV everywhere" apps from the service provider (Time Warner, DirecTV, etc.) or from the individual networks (HBO Go, Watch ESPN, and the like). But those require already being a paid cable or satellite subscriber.

Perhaps the closest "service" competitor to Escort MobileTV is Aereo , a service that streams live over-the-air TV to iOS devices for $8 per month. But there are two caveats: it's currently only available in New York City (though slated to expand to more cities later in 2013), and its legality is currently being determined in the courts. (Disclosure: CBS Corp., the parent corporation of CNET, is currently in active litigation as to the legality of the Aereo service and the Dish Hopper DVR; in order to prevent any real or perceived conflict of interest, we will not be reviewing them.)

Conclusion
Turning an iOS device into a television would be interesting if it could pick up all the programming in an area. As it is limited to the Dyle network, programming is fairly sparse, even in a big market like New York. If Dyle carries a network you like, and if you can get the signal where you want it, it does make for a convenient way to watch your programs without dragging around an entire portable television. Satisfying those requirements, the Escort MobileTV -- or its doppelganger, the Elgato EyeTV Mobile -- has value, especially considering there are no subscription fees to watch the programming. But if you want more programming options (including cable and on-demand TV), you should consider looking elsewhere.

Editors' note (January 31, 2013): This review has been updated to include comparisons to additional hardware and streaming competitors, including the nearly identical Elgato EyeTV Mobile.

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Escort MobileTV

Part Number: escort-mobiletv
MSRP: $99.95 Low Price: $96.72 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • CE Product Type ATSC tuner module