The inauguration last Tuesday was a historic moment for the nation. We were excited to be able to experience it on our mobile devices in addition to the usual (TV and web streaming) means. We viewed a live stream of the event on the iphone via a new application called Ustream. While the app performed reasonably well under what I can only assume were challenging conditions, the results still suggested that mass live mobile streaming isn’t quite ready for prime time. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights of the mobile experience:

+ The app downloaded quickly, and worked
+ The picture was clear
+ Sound quality was good
+ Multiple streaming options were presented
+ We were able to connect to the CNN stream even when the web version wasn’t accepting any more watchers

- The app required frequent screen touches or it would time out and lock the phone.
- As the oath approached, the stream stopped running smoothly, and began buffering.
- During the oath, the app actually crashed. Had we not also been streaming the event to laptops, we would have missed the whole oath.

When working, the Ustream application works fairly well. But we were let down by the glitches that swallowed a key portion of the event. And requiring regular touches to keep the screen unlocked is ridiculous. This would be a problem for any video viewer - our expectation with video is that no interaction is needed while it is playing. To be fair, it is unclear whether this was a glitch, or a quirk related to limits Apple places on 3rd party apps.

While Ustream is considerably better than nothing, we look forward to the day when there are more options for live streaming for iphone and other devices. And we look forward to the day when streaming to mobile devices is just as reliable and consistent as streaming to the web truly reliable. (Apparently various web streams also had trouble on Tuesday, though we didn’t personally have those problems). The events of the day were truly historic. But as far as experiencing historic events like these through our mobile devices - we just aren’t there yet.

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