I was recently offered a chance to look at mywaves, a service that offers free video content for mobile handsets. Smartphones often have the advantage in this space, but I wanted to see what mywaves offered to the larger, feature-phone audience and the company loaned me a Verizon Voyager to have a look. Note that the Voyager is VCast capable for video streaming through Verizon, but that service isn’t free.
mywaves offers content from a limited, but growing number of content providers. Content tends to be a primary need from a consumer point of view; after all, you can have the greatest service in the world but great content on that service is what brings success. For some reason, I just had a flashback to 1981: watching "Video Killed the Radio Star" on MTV a few dozen times a day.
Speaking of music television, VH1 is one of the content providers that mywaves has partnered with. Others include Paramount, CBS News, Sports Illustrated, Spike, and Playboy to name a few. (Commence comments about "ooohh, it must be so tough to review this stuff…" in 3, 2, 1….. now.)
The service is web-based and the user interface is simple to use. It’s a menu driven system: just tap on Videos, Ringtones, Wallpapers, Games, or Chat but with the Voyager, Videos was the only option the phone could handle. mywaves just announced the non-video services yesterday, so it may be a while before those services actually go live and they won’t be free like the videos are.
Video quality over EV-DO was generally as good I’d expect any streaming video; there’s some pixilation during fast movement but otherwise, it’s a watchable picture. I did see some user-generated content like the MAKE podcast, but the company’s business model appears focused on partnership agreements with content providers and handset makers.
In fact, mywaves just announced a deal with Sony Ericsson to integrate the mywaves application on their handsets. When I say "application", it’s really setting the browser home page to mywaves from what I can see; with the Voyager, hitting the browser takes me to mywaves. I didn’t see any other menu option on the phone to get me there. And while the company gets their name out with handset agreements, hitting up m.mywaves.com on my iPhone allowed me to watch numerous video clips for free as well.
The verdict for consumers? If you have a higher-end smartphone that already supports YouTube or other video platforms from your carrier, there’s not a tremendous value add here. Feature phone owners might enjoy the free video content provided they have a fast enough connection to the web in their handset.