Streaming Video From Your Mobile: When the Mobile Becomes a Television

Posted by admin on Mar 24, 2008

Streaming video from your mobile almost feels like magic. A video taken on your mobile phone appears, in real time, on the web and even allows users to interact with the mobile phone user through real-time chat functions. "It's immediate, it's there, and it's one click away," Flixwagon CEO Eran Hess told the BBC in a recent video interview. "It's very easy to do."

MobileActive tested two streaming video applications, Qik and Flixwagon, to see how they measured up for use by nonprofits and advocacy organizations that want to document and feature video content in real time. Lastly, we discuss how streaming video can be used for social impact.


Qik is a live video mobile phone streaming video service. Unlike existing live video streaming services such as Ustream, Mogulus,, and the new Yahoo Live, Qik does not require a computer to live stream. (Note: YouTube also claims to feature live video at some point in 2008)

You can simply use a Nokia device with the Qik application to video stream live with both audio and video, and with no limits to duration or bandwidth used.

For all mobile video services, if you have good connectivity to a high-speed mobile network (3.5G or better) and your settings are configured correctly, the quality of video is quite good.

The signup process for Qik wasn't exactly, well, quick. A full ten days after we first registered on the website, we received a text message saying "Welcome Qikker!" with instructions on how to download the Qik application to a Nokia N95 phone. However, after the initial wait things got a lot easier. The Qik application is intuitive, easy to use, and allows for almost immediate (there's a slight delay) streaming video from your mobile phone to the web.

The application also provides a fair number of options accessible directly from your phone. You can make the video public -- viewable from Qik -- or private -- viewable only from your profile page. You can mute the volume, add titles and descriptions, and choose to optimize for minimum delay or maximum quality. Qik integrates well into a variety of other applications -- including YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. The application also allows for live chat from the web. When someone types into the web chat box it immediately showed up on the screen of our mobile phone.

According to a glowing review by Andy Goodman who especially likes this feature: "This [interactivity] allows viewers to feel more part of the action and to actually intervene and co-operate in the final outcome by asking questions, making comments, or suggesting specific things to do. Since at times these live messages from the audience can be pretty many and hard to follow, Qik provides a simple numeric key to scroll back through them anytime you want. Excellent."

Qik supports streaming video on Nokia S60 phones.

The highest quality video (640x480 with 30 frames per second) produces close to 30 megabytes per minute, which means delays in uploading this large file. The display indicates how many minutes have been recorded and how much of ther file still needs to be uploaded but if you turn off the mobile too soon or lose connection, the rest of the film is lost.

Qik also offers an RSS feed for your page, allowing users to subscribe to your feed.


Signing up for Flixwagon was a bit faster, with a delay of seven days between when we first registered and received an email confirming my account. The application -- which is also fairly easy to use -- was easy to install and allowed me to begin streaming immediately. Although it lacked some of the options of the Qik -- you can only add titles, tags and descriptions before the broadcast, not during, and you can't mute the volume -- it was also intuitive and easy to use.

One unique feature of the service is their "FliXee Widget", a code which you can post on your website that makes your Flixwagon video stream directly to your blog. This saves the step of having to embed videos after taking them, and allows video to go directly to your blog from your mobile phone. Flixwagon supports most Nokia and Sony Ericsson handsets, according to TechCrunch -- the Flixwagon FAQ page notes that it only suports Nokia Series 60 3rd edition phones.



ComVu has been around much longer but has not received the hype that Qik and Flixwagon enjoy right now. ComVue supports many more 3G phones in addition to Symbian phones, and also features some interesting GPS mapping

According to a review that Andy Goodman wrote here,

"Comvu PocketCaster offers downloadable and installable versions of its software for all the major mobile phones and it provides a huge list of the specific devices it supports. PocketCaster is also supported by a fully mobile version of its main web site allowing users to access and view their favorite video clips even while on the move.

Among the unique characteristics that this service has to offer is the GPS-map integration, as well as finer control of the quality of video transmission, RSS support, automatic recording of each clip and a ready-to-download file for each video streamed.

Last but not least PocketCaster allows you to create contacts and group lists that you can use to market and promote your live show when needed, as well as the ability to allow you, the publisher, to embed your selected videos anywhere you want on the web.

PocketCaster live video streams can be also automatically posted to your Wordpress blog, to your YouTube account, and you can set Twitter notifications to be sent out each time you start a new video stream.

Like most other live video streaming services out there now, PocketCaster is free to use but it is unclear whether it still imposes bandwidth and storage limits on the streams and recorded clips allowed for each one account (as its online documentation indicates). Were this the case I think PocketCaster would have a lot to lose since all major competitors out there are now offering a fully free, no-strings and no-apparent-limits attached to their video streaming services."

He notes, however, that:

"The PocketCaster client player can either be the Windows Media Player plugin or the Apple Quicktime one. While they both work fine in today's world of web video they appear more as legacies of the past rather than innovative and cutting edge solutions. The large part of the new emerging world of web-based live video streaming services, from Ustream to Mogulus to Kyte and QIK are all Flash-based, and believe me, that is not just a coincidence.

The overall service doesn't seem to be as complete and reliable as the one of a company that has started showcasing its unique invention over two years ago. For example:

a) I get regularly logged out by the PocketCaster web-based system whenever I do certain operations,

b) to see the GPS map integration working you need to be on Internet Explorer 6 or later,

c) to stop video streaming and recording I need to access a menu and then select Stop. A more direct one-click route on the same button that I used to start the video would be so much easier.

Direct to blog posting is a great feature but Comvu needs to support all XML-RPC compatible publishing platforms with a proper implementation. Having already Wordpress support is absolutely great but definitely not enough if Comvu wants to gain greater exposure and visibility inside the marketplace.

Dynamic GPS tracking is supported only by using Internet Explorer 6 or later. That's too bad with so many users now giving a preference to FireFox. In Firefox I cannot even select the embed code for publishing any specific video clip on my site. I can see the code but I can't select it. Everything OK if I do the same on IE. The revolutionary feature introduced by QIK, which allows direct chat back from your live viewers is sorely missing. While text chat is supported this can take place only on your official PocketCaster "Live" page."


How Qik and Flixwagon Stacked Up

We tested fully Qik and Flixwagon, and overall, both applications worked fairly smoothly and intuitively and offered similar options. On the Nokia N95, we found the Qik application to have a better user interface. However, the quality of the Flixwagon video (especially on the "best" setting) seemed slightly better. According to TechCruch, "FlixWagon is claiming that this is due to the emphasis it places on ensuring that a user never loses a second of broadcast, even in the most challenging conditions inherent to mobile environments. For example, if a user goes into an elevator, basement, or loses reception for any reason, the broadcast will resume when reception is back and the full video will be stored and available for later viewing."

Qik also seems to get more web traffic; the most viewed video on Qik was viewed over 90,000 times, whereas the most viewed video on Flixwagon has been viewed about 700.

The potential for nonprofit organizations

A quick scan through the videos of both sites doesn't exactly yield thrilling content. There are people driving cars, walking dogs, acting drunk, and saying variations of "I'm live on the Internet, this is so cool!". However, I did find some videos on the sites that are at least mildly interesting to someone who isn't best friends with the owner of the video. On Qik, there is 30-minute video of a speech given by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg, coverage of a protest in London against the Church of Scientology, and a video from Apple's MacWorld conference of a women who was told she was rude by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Flixwagon's most-watched video is an 18-minute video of a blood donation in Hebrew.

But although most videos on the sites are so far fairly mundane, these streaming video applications have the potential to be useful by nonprofits and advocacy groups. Both Qik and Flixwagon provide the opportunity for people at one location to interact visually with people at another, coordinating activities and interactions remotely. Organizational events and campaigns can be streamed live on an organization's website.

Streaming video also has potential for use in repressive media environments. Videos of protests movements or human rights abuses could be viewed on the web in (almost) real time. The mitigating factor in these situations is bandwidth; streaming live from a mobile requires decent bandwidth on the cellular network and can be expensive because of high data charges in many countries.

Streaming video does have tremendous potential for other forms of citizen journalism, as it allows for instant, on-the-spot reporting without the need for a computer or Internet access. In February, the U.S.-based television channel MTV used Flixwagon to stream interviews from 51 citizen journalists in an effort to encourage young people to vote. Flixwagon's CEO Eran Hess says that Flixwagon will also be used with citizen journalists in Israel. The company has just completed a deal with an Israeli news channel which will supply phones with Flixwagon to citizens in the towns of Sderot and Ashkelon where rockets fired from Gaza have been landing.

Overall, both applications have the potential to be used in innovative ways, as long as the user signs up for an account a good deal ahead of when he or she need to use the application and has the bandwidth and data coverage to be able to afford live mobile video. Streaming video may not be magic, but it does offer new and innovative ways for nonprofits and citizen journalists to interact with constituents, media, and the world.

Photo credit to Erkka P.

This article was compiled by Corinne Ramey and Katrin Verclas,

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