Personally, I can’t get enough of the new podcast features rolled out in the iPhone/iPod touch 2.2 firmware update. They’re now an indispensable part of my daily commuting. That’s why I was looking forward to Joost for the iPhone (free). It seemed to have the potential to provide the same kind of time-killing power and more, because of its library of content, which includes popular film and television shows. The app comes with some caveats, however, and it remains to be seen whether those limitations will prevent the app from reaching its full potential.
First strike, although it doesn’t affect users in the U.S., international iPhone owners may be disappointed in the library of available content. Unless you’re a huge fan of Naruto, which seems to make up all of the Anime video section. Many services encounter problems when trying to pick up international distribution rights for all types of media. Pandora is one high profile example, as is Hulu for video. That doesn’t mean there won’t be more content available in future. The Xbox Live Marketplace has brought video to Canada and other markets, albeit behind their American launch.
A second concern is the limitation of playback to devices connected via Wi-Fi only. This one basically dashes my hopes of having another distraction for the commute. And really, when you think about using the Joost app beyond the first couple of days, I wonder if the lack of 3G or EDGE support doesn’t become a deal-breaker. Generally, I don’t get the urge to watch television or movies on a tiny screen when I’m at home, which is where I use Wi-Fi the vast majority of the time, and which is also where I have a 32″ LCD TV that won’t provoke serious neck cramps.
A third issue might be technical concerns, as some users over at TechCrunch have reported connectivity issues, and audio dropping out. During my own tests with the app, I haven’t run into the same problems, and this one should be fairly easy to resolve with a version update.
It’s not all thorns, of course. There are also some significant roses. While people complained about the hit-and-miss nature of the library when the service initially launched for the desktop, there is some great content available. CBS is fairly well represented, and although the Movies list is relatively thin, there are some classics available, like Starship Troopers, which I love dearly.
While Joost may not have the best library among streaming video media services, their iPhone app launch is good news for everyone. It signals a significant maturation point in the lifecycle of internet television, and paves the way for industry leaders like Hulu to enter the fray. Japanese markets are already enjoying TV on their mobile devices via 1seg antennas, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be enjoying the same sort of thing on this side of the globe. All that remains is for content providers to wake up smell the decline of tradional cable and satellite, and fully embrace the streaming revolution. Everyone stands to gain, the average consumer most of all.