iPhone to the rescue

I will be sitting in an airport tomorrow night when the season finale of The Office is on. After arriving in Philly, I will only be home for a short time before a 2.5 hour car ride. I’d love to kill some time in the car watching The Office. At first, I thought this wouldn’t be possible due to lack of an Internet connection and the fact that the show is no longer on iTunes.

But with my iPhone, except when I’m on an airplane, I always have an Internet connection. I’ve emailed from a chairlift in Colorado. I’ve read book reviews on Amazon in a bookstore. I always have the world’s information at my fingertips.

But, you say, there’s no Flash! How will you get it from Hulu or NBC.com? Well, fortunately it does support QuickTime (big surprise), and NBC has a special mobile site formatted specifically for the iPhone. Try visiting NBC.com from your iPhone (or change your User-Agent) and you’ll be automatically directed there. On the site, they have full episodes of The Office encoded in iPhone-compatible videos. So that’s what I’ll be downloading at EDGE speed on my way from Pennsylvania to Poughkeepsie.

I tested out a download (over Wi-Fi) and was disappointed by the video quality. The video is letterboxed 320 x 240 MPEG-4 in a 3GP container at 15 fps. The iPhone can support pretty decent video, but what NBC uses is blurry and the audio and video are out of sync. I can deal with the blurriness as they’re probably optimizing for lower download times. I’m not a huge fan of the fact that at the same time they’re wasting data and creating distracting artifacts around the edges by encoding black pixels with letterboxing, but that happens all the time and I’ve learned to accept it. It’s the sync issue that makes it a truly frustrating experience for a video geek. However, I’ll probably be tired enough when I watch on Friday that it won’t bother me.

2 thoughts on “iPhone to the rescue”

  1. I’m also downloading the first season of Flight of the Conchords on iTunes to keep me busy on the plane. Should be more entertaining than my original idea of using the flight time to organize my iPhoto library.

  2. Well, my plan didn’t work. Even now, NBC’s mobile site is only showing the “Job Fair” episode. But I’m finally back at the hotel (after a 3-hour dinner on very little sleep) and it looks like it’s up on Hulu, so that’s what I’ll be doing for my final 42 minutes of consciousness tonight.

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