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Justin TV 2.0 brings live video broadcasting to iPhone (hands-on)

The second Justin.tv iPhone app adds the ability to broadcast live video to its playback feature, making it a much more powerful and competitive app.

Justin.tv 2.0 for iPhone
Justin.tv 2.0 for iPhone now broadcasts live video instead of just playing it back.

Updated, 11:57 a.m. PT: Now includes a hands-on review.

For live video broadcasting service Justin.tv, going mobile makes all the difference. It's been just two weeks since the company launched Justin.tv for Android, but the app now accounts for about 20 percent of Justin.tv's live streaming broadcasts. With the release of Justin.tv for iPhone 2.0, the company expects more of the same.

Justin.tv 2.0 builds on the version 1.0 iPhone app by adding live video broadcasting, chatting, and Facebook- and Twitter-sharing features to the previous view-only mode. These are also features found in the Android app.

The update is a major improvement on the previous version since it adds a broadcasting element that will, for frequentJustin.tv users, become their primary activity in the app. We're pleased with the intuitive design on the video side, and had no problem using the on-screen icons to move between broadcast and viewing modes. The app also makes good use of the iPhone's front-facing camera, allowing you to switch between it and the traditional back-of-phone camera. All videos are recorded and shared on your registered Justin.tv channel, and on Facebook and Twitter if you've opted to share.

The viewing mode gave us some problems during hands-on testing, however--and it could be a launch-day error due to a strain on Justin.tv's resources that others don't experience. The app did not pull up contacts we followed for two separate accounts; nor were we able to "find" and watch live streams for these users. We were able to watch TWit TV's livestream in high-quality resolution from the Justin.tv iPhone, though. We'd like to see the company improve the social aspect of finding and following from the mobile screen. We also experienced a failed sign-in error message when creating an account from the iPhone. While this was likely because the username was already taken, the lack of context could discourage confused new users.

About a 20-second delay exists between the time you begin a stream and the time others begin to see it. Justin.tv uses the delay for smoothing out video on the backend.

The time is ripe

While the team of Justin.tv engineers we spoke with didn't offer exact growth estimates for the buffed-up iPhone app, they did mention during our demo that the Android app helped spike video-sharing via Facebook and Twitter to over 100 percent of their previous numbers.

Live mobile broadcasting ambitions have long been works in progress by broadcast companies like Qik, Bambuser, Juicecaster, and Ustream, however hardware and software limitations with frame rate smoothness and video upload time have hobbled progress. Enhancements to software development kits, hardware in the form of dedicated encoding processors, and standards like H.264 compression are instrumental in creating reliable, high-quality video outputs, Evan Solomon, Justin.tv's VP of Marketing, told us.

Mobile entertainment companies have also made inroads, with the introduction of the Netflix and Hulu Plus streaming iPhone apps and branded carrier experiences such as AT&T Mobile TV generating excitement and user traction the way that small-time solutions haven't been able to before. It's beginning to look like high-definition mobile video services are finally coming of age, both in streaming to the smartphone, and uploading from it. Justin.tv's mobile apps are entering the right market at the right time.

Justin.tv 2.0 for iPhone will work on the video-capable iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS over Wi-Fi, 3G, and EDGE, with the video resolution adjusting for smoothness. The company has no current plans to build out its apps for Windows Phone 7 or BlackBerry, Justin.tv's Solomon said.