Hands-on with Virgin’s TV phone

Virgin Mobile is trying to claw its way into the top ranks of the mobile market with Europe’s first proper mobile TV service. Nautrally, we scut

Virgin Mobile is trying to claw its way into the top ranks of the mobile market with Europe’s first proper mobile TV service. Nautrally, we scuttled over to the launch of its new Lobster 700 to crack open the only phone in the UK that’s capable of receiving broadcast TV signals.The new ‘tellyphone’ works over DAB so you can receive all your favourite digital radio stations as well as BBC1, ITV1, E4 and a special channel called Channel 4 Shortcuts, which will broadcast a ‘best of’ Channel 4 shows, such as Big Brother, Lost and The O.C.Underneath the exoskeleton is a Windows Mobile 5 device, so you’ll get Media Player, push email, and a 1.3MP camera, while the protruding red button on the side will take you straight to the TV function. When it’s running, the sound is as crisp as a potato snack thanks to that DAB signal, although in our quick test the picture was poor and spent more time buffering than it did playing the episode of Hollyoaks on show.The 2.2in screen really doesn’t use its full capacity for TV viewing either, keeping margins at both the top and bottom for menu options and signal information. We’d like to see it turned the other way around and made full-size on future models for widescreen goodness.The 7-day EPG seemed intuitive, though, and allowed us to set reminders for shows in the same way we do on our Sky boxes. The red button doubles up as an interactive portal to the GPRS internet connection – allowing you to buy stuff you’ve just seen on the telly – although a 3G update is sorely needed to speed up browsing. The Lobster also lacks A2DP Bluetooth, and the headphones also form part of the aerial, so there’s no way of upgrading to better cans - yet.On the plus side, contract users will get the TV content free, while pay-as-you-go users get 3 months free, with a £5 per month charge after that. So, not quite the delicious a la carte lobster dish we were hoping for then – more of a warm seafood stick. We’ll have a full review for you soon.