Verizon VCast TV hands-on: Your TV is calling

How much do you love to watch TV? According to Nielsen Media Research, during the 2004-2005 season, the average household watched more than 8 hours of television a day.

Your TV watching will surely rise with a subscription to Verizon's VCast Mobile TV. It's not that 15-frame-per-second, constantly buffer-interrupted streaming stuff, but true 30-fps TV, broadcast on a dedicated network built by Qualcomm subsidiary MediaFLO. Available in around 30 markets with more joining every week, you get eight channels (CBS, Comedy Central, ESPN, Fox, MTV, NBC, NBC News and Nickelodeon). Some mimic the schedule of their big-screen TV counterparts, though most offer a mish-mosh of simulcasts and reruns. Packages are priced between $13 and $25 a month. In the fall, AT&T will launch the service as well.

There are two phones capable of receiving these cell-TV broadcasts: the LG VX9400 (above left, $200 with the usual contract and rebates), and the Samsung SCH-U620 (above right, $150). The former is a T-bar model — the 2.2-inch screen swivels and snaps up 90° from portrait to landscape mode. The latter is a standard travel soap-size slider that you turn sideways to watch TV on its 2-inch screen.

Which one has the better FLO? Find out after the jump.

Both phones have a old school My Favorite Martian telescoping antenna needed for reception. You surf available shows on a familiar grid TV program guide. And both offer a TV-like experience with instant reception when you change channels, and a remarkably crisp, bright and uninterrupted 2-inch TV picture, even in a moving car. Both EV-DO phones are also equipped with a 1.3-megapixel camera, stereo Bluetooth that works only with music and not for TV listening (?!), a 2.5mm stereo headphone minijack, and MP3 and WMA VCast Music compatibility.

Of the two, the LG is the superior phone, and not only because of its larger, swinging screen. It gives slightly better TV picture, it runs TV nearly twice as long (6 hours vs. barely 3.5 hours on the Samsung) and offers speedier Web access.

It may be tiny TV, but when you're on the road, tiny TV is better than no TV at all. Now you'll excuse me, The Naked Brothers are on my phone.

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