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Live TV hits the road on your cell phone

A trial version of SlingPlayer Mobile — to watch TV on your smart phone — is available as a free download as part of a public beta program.
Sling's new mobile software is now available. It gives you full remote control of your cable box from nearly anywhere.
Sling's new mobile software is now available. It gives you full remote control of your cable box from nearly anywhere.Sling Media

For the past few months I’ve been living with a cell phone that allows me to watch live cable TV anywhere I go.  That included trips to Las Vegas (for the Consumer Electronics Show) and Barcelona (for the 3GSM conference).  Worked like a charm.  I’m now so used to watching TV on my phone that I’m hooked.

The cell phone I’m using is T-Mobile’s MDA smart phone.  It runs on the latest Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC operating system.

The software that allows me to watch on that phone is Slingbox’s brand-new mobile program. And beginning today you can get hooked too.

First of all, you need a Slingbox. That’s the cute little device that attaches to your cable/satellite TV box (or VCR/DVD) and your home computer network (which, in turn, is connected to a high-speed Internet connection). Then Slingbox lets you control your video source and channel the audio and video to your computer via the Internet. 

Slingbox comes with software that lets you see and listen to your TV on any Windows PC.  The company is also preparing a version for computers that run on the Mac OS.

Now, I can tell you all about their new smart phone software client. It’s called SlingPlayer Mobile and it is available beginning today.  At this time, it’s compatible with devices that run Windows Mobile Pocket PC 5.0 and 2003 Second Edition.  Sling is also promising to deliver a version for non-touch-screen devices based on Windows Mobile smart phone in the next few weeks.

A trial version of SlingPlayer Mobile is now available as a free download on as part of the public beta program. Slingbox owners who buy and register their Slingbox before April 26 will receive a free license for the mobile software. Beginning April 26, Sling will begin charging for it — a one-time fee of $29.99. There are no monthly or recurring charges for the use of the software.

The new software works on a small (but growing) number of portable devices.  For now, think in terms of the Palm Treo 700 (currently listed for $499.99 on Verizon’s Web site), Sprint’s PPC-6700 ($449.99), Verizon’s version of the same phone, the XV6700 ($399.99), T-Mobile’s MDA ($349.99), Cingular’s 8125 ($299.99 after $50 on-line rebate) and a few others.  I’m not going to list them all.

Non-touch-screen models include Nextel’s i930 ($349.99 after $150 on-line rebate) and T-Mobile’s SDA handset ($249.99).

Sling Media

The software itself installs easily (you need to physically attach your phone to your computer to install it) and works like a dream.  I’ve tested a number of pre-beta versions.  Some worked better than others.  But the latest version seems to work better than all of the previous versions combined.

As you can see from the pictures, you not only watch your cable TV on your phone — but you can also control and change channels and other parameters from anywhere your phone can connect with a high-speed data network. That small caveat comes from personal experience: my weekend test location is not very cell phone-friendly — so finding the right spot to watch my cell phone SlingPlayer is sometimes tricky.

Adding it all up, Slingbox is a terrific device.  Their new mobile software for cell phones is terrific.  Once you have it, you’ll wonder why everyone else doesn’t.

If you were on the fence about buying a Slingbox, now is the time. For the next month or so you get the mobile software for free. That’s like getting a $50 rebate on the Slingbox itself. I can tell you from experience that you’ll be getting yourself into a win-win situation.