Escort MobileTV review: Turn your iPhone into a TV

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MSRP: $99.95

The Good The compact design of the Escort MobileTV makes it easy to carry around as a way to add television functionality to an iOS device. The associated IDTV app is free, and includes a program guide.

The Bad Programming for the MobileTV is limited to the Dyle network, and reception came in consistently for only about half of the available channels.

The Bottom Line With its limited programming and reception, the Escort MobileTV will satisfy only a small segment of people who desire a portable television.

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4.7 Overall

The iPhone effectively replaced digital cameras and GPS devices, and now Escort MobileTV extends its reach to portable televisions. The MobileTV accessory works with iPhones and iPads, letting them receive broadcast television signals from the Dyle television network.

The MobileTV, essentially identical to the previously reviewed Elgato EyeTV Mobile, is a blocky little device with a 30-pin iPhone connector on one end and an antenna on the other. Despite the 30-pin connector, Escort says it needs an iPhone 4 or newer, ruling out its use with earlier iPhones. Likewise, it will only work with the fourth-generation iPod Touch or newer, but supports all iPads. For newer iOS devices, it needs the 30-pin-to-Lightning adapter.

There is also a Mini-USB port for charging on the end of the MobileTV accessory, as the device relies on an internal battery. A red LED on the black device shows when it is charging.

Connected to an iPhone or iPad, it sits neatly in the connector, adding its minimal, approximately 2x2-inch bulk. Hooking it up through a Lightning adapter to a newer iOS device makes it stick out a bit farther, and the whole apparatus feels more prone to being knocked loose.

Free app required
By itself, the MobileTV accessory does not do anything, as it needs the IDTV app to show television broadcasts on an iOS device. This app is free from the App Store, and available for iPhone or iPad.

Escort MobileTV
The IDTV app features a program guide, although it did not fill out details for every channel. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

However, the MobileTV and the IDTV app may not be enough to turn your iOS device into a portable television. It also needs to be within the Dyle television network's coverage area. Dyle includes a convenient coverage map on its Web site, which also shows which channels are available in each area.

Never heard of the Dyle television network? This service retransmits existing television network programming as a digital signal for mobile devices. The MobileTV will receive programming only from Dyle, and is not able to pick up any other over-the-air broadcasts. Dyle promises to offer access to its network free of charge through 2013.

This means the MobileTV can only get the channels Dyle carries, which in the San Francisco Bay Area is limited to five. From our testing, that meant Fox affiliate KTVU, NBC affiliate KNTV, independent KICU, Telemundo affiliate KSTS, and Qubo affiliate KXPX. New York appears to be the biggest market with eight broadcasters, including MyTV, and three local independents.

Channel scanning
After a couple of setup screens, the IDTV app scanned for available channels. On our first test, performed within our sixth-floor office, it only came up with four of the five available. During a second test, outside in San Francisco, it found only four again, although a different set of channels. Although the IDTV app saves the channels it finds, it does not automatically rescan for channels every time you start it up or change location. You will have to run a manual scan to find available channels in different areas.

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