Media Tips, Tricks, and Hints
Streaming to Mobile Devices
By Andrew Jones (StreamGuys)
This document explains some of the strategies for best delivering your audio and video content to mobile phones and PDAs.
In General Terms
There is no magic formula for streaming to mobile phones. There are too many variables in the system (audio formats, mobile carriers, phone manufacturers, phone applications, etc) for one solution to work for all mobile users. Unless you’re an early adopter with deep pockets, my suggestion is to do what’s easy and inexpensive – in most cases, this means taking small steps to repurpose your existing content. The next step would be to add an additional format to reach a wider mobile audience. As with anything streaming, StreamGuys is here to guide, suggest, and assist. Please contact us if you are looking for more information that what is in this document.
Connecting the dots
One of the hurdles of delivering mobile content is making the initial jump to the mobile device. How is your audience actually going to get to your content? Your mobile offerings are best pitched to your audience as an extension of your existing website. You could create a simple mini website (5 pages or less) that mobile users could access from their mobile web browser (something like http://mobile.yoursite.org/). On this mini site, you would present the mobile-specific links to your content, and links to other material suitable for those on the move. On your regular website, you can create a simple form where mobile users can send your mobile website URL or mobile stream URL directly to their phone by entering their 10 digit phone number and service provider. StreamGuys can provide you with the code for this form.
Which formats work for mobile delivery?
The following sections describe how well the established audio and video formats reach mobile users.
If you have a native windows media stream, it can be heard on windows media mobile devices. Here’s a page of Windows Media mobile devices: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile/devices/default.mspx
Windows Media mobile cannot tune in to mp3 streams like the desktop version.
If you have a native Real Media stream, it can be heard on devices that support RealPlayer Mobile. The following page has a list of device for which RealPlayer Mobile is available: http://www.realnetworks.com/industries/serviceproviders/mobile/products/player/index.html
A handful of devices, like Nokia 6620, have RealPlayer Mobile preinstalled and is not available for download. RealPlayer Mobile also supports the 3GPP streaming protocol.
The needed server software (Helix Streaming Server) can be installed on either Windows or Linux based servers.
The Windows Media and Real Media solutions will work for both live and on-demand streams.
If you’re making space in the budget for additional mobile content, streaming in 3GPP, the native format for mobile phones, should be high on your list. A handful of devices have their own proprietary player that supports this format. The following four encoders are just some of the options for encoding 3GP content:
• Quicktime Broadcaster (free download for Macs only)
• Wirecast (PC or Mac) costs $500.
• Orban’s Opticodec 1100 PE hardware card (PC only) Orban can do the ultra-efficient aacPlus format. This setup costs $1900.
• Xenon Encoder by Vidiator (PC only) is a robust 3GP streaming and transcoding solution that supports multiple simultaneous streams. AAC and AACPlus formats supported. This solution costs $6,000.
On Demand File Encoders
• Quicktime Pro ($39 for Mac or PC)
• Orban’s 1020 FE Enterprise ($999 for PC only) can encode a 3GPP on-demand file. Orban, again, does the high-efficiency aacPlus format.
The Darwin Streaming Server is used for 3GP streaming. It can be installed on either Windows or Linux servers. Streaming in the native 3GPP format is not as straightforward as Windows Media or Real Media, but we can help you wade through this process.
MP3 Streaming with Icecast/Shoutcast
The MP3 streaming codec is quite flexible when targeted to desktop users, as all of the major audio players can play this format. However, the MP3 streaming format is no so flexible on mobile platforms. Usually, an after market application is required to stream MP3 content from the web. These 3rd party apps vary depending on phone manufacturer and operating system (details below).
Third Party Applications
There are a few applications for mobile phones that can receive streaming audio. Here are descriptions of a few of these apps.
If you have a ogg vorbis stream (which requires an Icecast server) you can be included in the Spodradio player for free. The download of the Spodradio client application is also free to your listeners. As you have seen, they do require you sign an exclusivity contract. Your streaming server will support Icecast, if you’d like to stream in this format.
If you have a low-bitrate mp3 stream (which you do), you can be included within the Virtual Radio application. Virtual Radio is a directory listing/mp3 player that costs $9.00 US to download and install on a compatible mobile device: http://www.vradio.org/buy.php There is no cost to have your station listed within the Virtual Radio program.
For Pocket PC and Treo devices. Quite expensive, but it can tune in to mp3 and aacPlus streams. http://www.pocket-tunes.com/
Freeware for Pocket PC and Windows mobile devices. Can tune in to mp3 streams: http://www.freewareppc.com/multimedia/gsplayer.shtml
Please contact StreamGuys if you have any additional questions about delivering to mobile devices. We’d love to help you target this growing market.
Action in the front seat with in car Internet radio
Here is a video showing how to connect your phone to your car stereo. As a quick note, the data service shown in the demo is the Sprint Power Vision unlimited. No additional subscription fees or special software on the phone were required for the radio. It all worked out of the box.