Some Drifta/DSTV Mobile updates you may have missed

Posted on December 29, 2012

Expanded coverage

Firstly, coverage has been expanded. The folks in East London can now enjoy the service. This is the first expansion of coverage in quite some time so this is good news. Personally I must confess to having had a concern that DSTV couldn’t attract enough customers to the mobile service and that we may never see an expansion of the service.

Take a look at the coverage map to see if your area is supported : Map

Windows Phone

Secondly, Windows Phone is now supported. This seems to cover devices (mostly Nokias) running Windows 7.5 and up. So this is really the Lumia 710, Lumia 800 and Lumia 900 (WP 7.5) and then (although not stated on the website or the store) the 820 and 920 (WP8). I have seen some compliants online that not all Windows Phone 8 Devices are supported.

More info for Windows Phone is on the DSTV Mobile website (here)

Symbian / Nokia

Thirdly, a whole lot of Nokia Symbian devices are supported. You can download the app from the OVI store if you have any of the following devices :

Touch : N8, C6, C7, E7, E6, N97, N97 Mini, X6, 5800 X-press Music

Keypad: E52, E63, E71, E72, E75, N95

More info for Symbian (Nokia) devices is on the DSTV Mobile website (here)


Guest review : Using the Nokia DVB-H adapter with the E7

Posted on September 11, 2011

Johan posted this fairly lengthy comment in response to my post “A most interesting hour with DStv mobile team” . It makes good reading and deserves better exposure than languishing within the comments, so with his permission, a mostly unedited version is presented below. I have included a few of my own comments (all italicised). 

I am using the Nokia DVB-H adapter with my Nokia E7 and must say I am really happy just carrying 1 device with the benefit of “using” Internet on the device (when you switch to the mobile TV app it does stop, but downloads are not interrupted in the background when watching DSTV). For all Nokia’s “faults”, true multitasking and excellent hardware have kept me on the platform. My N900 did unfortunately pack up, but the E7 has been a worthy replacement (for me at least).

The wifi drifta is however a more “versatile” device. It can now be used with PC, iOS, “Android” (currently 6 devices) and hopefully soon OSX (although the Drifta allows only one device to connect at a time).

In terms of the Nokia Mobile TV software it does have some benefits over the Drifta software. A really nice feature is the REMINDERS functionality (only for the next 18 hours for which the EPG is displayed for). Once set, the reminder pops up even if you do not have the dvb-h headset connected. 1 click and you can watch the program (once you connect the headset).

My main gripes are (mostly Nokia specific – I don’t have a Drifta)

  1. The E7 can only be charged via USB, but the dvb-h adaptor takes that spot – so you can’t charge and watch at the same time. But I have watched about 4.5 hours on a full charge. The older N8 can be used for longer (has older charger plug allowing charge and view) but the “pop-up” screen of the E7 does make it easier to view…
  2. You HAVE to “subscribe” via 3G / Wifi EVERY month (only takes 5 mins, but it is a pain)
  3. SuperSport 4 just would NOT want to work. Says loading but nothing. Lots of fiddling and then SS4 now working (after resetting Mobile TV from within the app). It then re-scans for channels. You have to then “purchase” again, but it remembers that you already have a subscription and within a minute you can watch the channels again.
  4. Could for the life of me not get it to work in Strand, Stellenbosch, Blauwberg, SomersetWest end last month. Just kept saying no signal… But when I landed back in Gauteng worked instantly… (Coverage across the broader Western Cape does seem a bit spotty. This is reflected on the DStv Mobile coverage map on their site.)

But overall I think it is a great service (yes “better” channels would be nice, but for R36 per month you get SS1 and SS2 “always” with you.

Thanks Johan. Great to get some insight into other options. You certainly seem to be getting a better battery life than what I get with my wifi Drifta, or my HTC Desire. And between them they have two batteries (which both have to be charged). The reminders feature is one that is sorely missing from the Drifta.

 The all in one option of the E7 with headset seems like a great alternate, especially if you have a compatible cell phone. 


A (most interesting) hour with the DStv Mobile team

Posted on September 01, 2011

This afternoon (31/8/2011) I had the pleasure of spending an hour with the DStv mobile team. Thanks to Maiyo for setting it up and to Bradley and Neil for giving freely of your time.

The DStv mobile product is a fairly simple one. There are the two hardware devices (the Drifta and USB Drifta). The USB Drifta is the simpler one to deal with as it works only with PC’s. There is client software for Windows and as a pleasant surprise, software for Mac is under development and at a fairly advanced stage. No mention of release dates, after the previous debacle around late releases the team is hyper-sensitive to this issue and would clearly rather under-promise and over-deliver, can’t blame them for that one.

Neil spoke a little around the development life cycle, and how the windows client was developed first, then the iPad version, and now the Mac. The Mac version takes the best user interface elements of the previous ones and builds on that. At a later stage the Windows version will be updated to bring this new user interface to us. Although it doesn’t change the fundamental product it is a nice touch. I asked around PVR type functionality which is hinted at in the Drifta BIOS. Sadly this isn’t allowed in the content license agreements.

I got to play with an android tab and phone version of the Drifta clients for a short while. They work as expected, touch interface and look good. Still testing to do and kinks to work out, but they are coming.

I put my three phones (a Blackberry, Nokia and Andoid device) on the table and asked the big question. What happened, the delays, the promises, the angry community, the inadequate response. When are we getting the promised clients.

The team was honest, embarrassed and clearly hurt by what had happened. They missed the deadlines, and badly. They pissed off their customers and are well aware of it and trying hard to avoid repeating the situation. I think this has led to the huge lack of information around current state. They are very scared of creating any further expectations that can’t be met, even if those are through customers misinterpreting what has been said.

Before, we were told that there would be client software for Android, Nokia and Blackberry. That is a very wide statement to make (and was a mistake). There are just too many classes of devices in each of those camps, and by not being more specific false expectations were created. The delays have also led to devices which were mainstream being largely out of the picture and having to work towards moving goalposts. In the Android arena there have been a plethora of devices and OS versions. None of this has made things easy.

That said, they have been working hard to try to bring the client to these devices. They want it out there, it opens up the market hugely and can only be in their interests.

We spoke mostly about Android and Blackberry. Nokia (Symbian) was mentioned more in passing. Nokia has all but abandoned Symbian and moved on to Windows Mobile 7. It wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense for DStv to be investing a lot of effort in a dying platform. By the time they got it out and stable most people would have moved on from the platform.

I asked around compatibility of the clients with handsets. There are minimum requirements. In the Blackberry arena the software was tested on the Curve and Bold platforms. Changes in the OS have caused compatibility problems with some of the newer devices that still has to be worked out. The very popular 8520 (baby Blackberry) only has a slower processor and lower resolution screen is unlikely to work with the software. If when released the software runs on the Curve, Bold and Torch then it will cover most of the newer devices. I hope not too many 8520 users will be disappointed, but it was to be expected.

The Android front is a whole lot more complicated. As with the iPhone, they are concerned about rooted devices and those with video out. Licensing doesn’t allow the signal to be output unrestricted to big screens. This is a mobile service. This means as with iPhone if you have a rooted (jailbroken) device / custom rom you may not be able to use the software. We didn’t go into detail about how this will be enforced, but as with the iPhone environment, I am sure there will be hacked software soon enough.

Given the vast number of devices, and that a lot of the newer cheaper devices are having smaller screens and weaker processors, it will not be possible for the client to run on every Android device out there. If we had to wait for that level of compatibility we would never see the application.

The software will be available through the Android market place. DStv plan to make use of a device whitelisting system, when a user launches the application it will check with the white listing server to see if the device is compatible.  It will initially be available for a handful of Samsung devices (Samsung were kind enough to give DStv significant support in debugging issues), and then additional devices and suppliers will be added to the list as testing and development increases the scope of compatibility. This is sure to disappoint some users out there (myself included as an HTC user) but just seeing the application out there and in use will be a really good start. Once that list of supported devices grows we will get even happier.

The release date for Blackberry I won’t hazard a guess at, and given the discussion around it I didn’t ask. No point raising those expectations again until there is something to see.

The Android application is not far off. We have heard vague and non-committal dates being thrown around after all those missed deadlines (and I explained above why they are so sensitive). A target date was mentioned to me, which I have agreed not to disclose. If they manage to hit that date, a few of the Samsung Android users (on the whitelist) will have an early Christmas present and be smiling. From the conversation, I am confident that as a HTC user I will also be able to use my Drifta as was intended within a reasonable timeframe.

We spoke also a little around technical support, and it was mentioned that DStv mobile are looking to enhance their online experience for customers to improve support. Improvements are always  good thing.

In terms of improvements to software, full screen and jailbroken iDevices isn’t allowed with licensing so we moved onto other ideas. A Drifta with a LCD screen may be a bit expensive, so how about putting a headphone jack on it and letting it be used as a digital radio. May not be much use for some of the channels, but for sport and music this would be great. Often the game isn’t on radio and listening to it on the Drifta could fill that gap. I asked also about an audio only client for lower specced devices that wouldn’t be able to display the pictue (that 8520 and some lower class Android devices come to mind). While these are nice ideas none can really be implemented short-term (my thought, not theirs) as the focus is on delivering the promised client applications first.

Ideas for improvements for the PC software:

  • Searchable programme guide
  • Reminders for upcoming shows
  • Ability to pause (to get that beer from the fridge while not missing the game, or to take an important call)
  • Setting (off by default) the call on startup of the app that currently checks if you have elected to participate in the useage monitoring programme (I personally take offense to having my uniquely identifiable information sent to the central server without permission – but then I did sign up for the programme when it was explained to me)
  • Setting (off by default) as to whether the software should check for updates (mobile data can be expensive)

I was asked my impression of the programming, I mainly watch sports and the news channels. I am fine with the allocation. The “cut down” mobile versions of channels was mentioned and Maiyo pointed out to me that for Cartoon Network they have quietly replaced the gimped one with the linear direct-to-home DStv version (the full version). I missed that along the way, big up to DStv for listening to their clients and sorting that out. I think they could have made a bit of a bigger deal about that and taken more credit for it. E! Entertainment continues to play a block of content that is repeated periodically.  Mnet Series is largely the same as the DTH channel, where licences have not been granted for certain programming, substitute programming will be scheduled.

The recurring theme through the discussions was how to communicate better with the customers, providing more transparency and information, while managing expectations to try to avoid consumer rage. We bounced around some ideas, and I hope that will lead to more information being made available, at a minimum details of what older devices/platforms will definitely NOT be supported, and possibly even minimum technical specifications (per platform) of what would be required in order to at least have a chance of the client working. Consumers would need to be careful not to misinterpret such information as a promise to have it working on those platforms. Still, this would help significantly in making decisions for next handsets.  I mentioned how frustrated I was having been through two phone upgrades between January and June and having no information on which to base a decision. They get this, just need work out how to sensibly release such information.

I was asked around the volume of traffic to this site. For those interested it is currently between 300 and 500 article impressions a day, and about 70% of that traffic relates DStv mobile, the next largest are those looking for details on Cellular service providers’ (Vodacom) compliance (or not as the case may be) with the Consumer Protection Act. Is running the site a full-time job? No, I have a real job. The advertising here brings in around R180/month currently, with that split between revenue for views and for clicks. A click pays anything from 40c to R12 (averaging R3.57), and advert views range from 0c (yes zero) to around 24c/thousand views. All that is highly variable and not enough to even buy me an iPad.

Finally we spoke around me getting added to the media list for press releases so I can keep the information on the site and updated, and possibly getting information just ahead of product and client releases so I can help spread the word and provide support to you, the community.

A very positive meeting, and I think DStv mobile, Maiyo, Bradley and Neil for inviting me to your offices, giving freely of your time and trusting me enough to show me what you are working so hard at delivering. I look forward to further interactions, and a growing community as you roll out the next versions of your client software and products.

If you have questions you would like answered let me know and I will see if I can get answers from Maiyo.

Disclaimer : DStv Mobile have not edited or unduly influenced this article in any way. The team was kind enough to show me a lot of what they are doing and give me honest answers to a lot of questions. In the vein of under promise and over deliver they did ask me not to reveal certain information. Out of respect to them I did send them a pre-release version of this article and on request some minor amendments were made (by me) to avoid creating unrealistic expectations. If this does happen, blame me for over enthusiasm and not the DStv mobile team :) 

P.S. After the fact I did post two additional questions to Maiyo. During the discussion we spoke briefly about Windows Mobile 7, however I did not explicitly ask if they were going to be developing for this platform. I asked for clarification on this. We also spoke a bit around what the minimum specifications might be for supported devices (across Nokia, Android, Blackberry) and whether these could be released. Not so much as to tell you your device would be supported, but so that you could know which devices just definitely wouldn’t make the grade. Useful when buying your next phone. They had not explicitly documented these specs, and they could also vary per platform. I have asked if this information could be documented and shared. The team was a little reluctant as they were concerned people may misinterpret this as an undertaking to develop for ALL devices which met these specifications, which clearly is unrealistic. I have asked if they might share these minimum specs, subject  to proviso’s sure, but some information is better than none. Will keep you posted.

Update : The Android version has now been released, read more here

Don’t get your hopes up, your mobile device probably won’t be supported by Drifta anyway

Posted on June 23, 2011

A lot of people having been waiting in (vain) hope of being able to watch DSTV on their mobile phones (other than iPhones). Information and updates on progress on getting the promised clients for Nokia, Blackberry and Android has varied between slow and non-existent. The “promises” of 1 April 2011, 30 May 2011, Early 2011 etc have all been broken and no new real information or deadlines provided.

A user by the name of “eel” posted on the 13th June on the forum (link here) : (slightly edited)

  • There is an Android client in the works (no timeline yet)
  • There is a blackberry client in the works ( no time line yet)
  • There is a Nokia S60 version in the works (sooner than the other 2, but will only be ready when the coding is done). This version will utilise the Drifta with wifi support but the CPU needs to be above 700mhz.

I don’t know who “eel” is or how reliable his information is. However, if it is true, then it will come as a shock to many Nokia users, myself included. Very few Nokia’s run at a speed of 700mhz or above. In fact, I am not sure that ANY released before the Drifta itself was released in fact run at that speed.

The Nokia E71 runs at 381Mhz, the N95 at 330Mhz, the E72 runs at 600Mhz, N97 runs at 434Mhz. So speed requirement is true, then only Nokia S60 phones released in late 2010/2011 like the N8 and E7 (only 680Mhz) may well work with the Drifta.

So I don’t hold out much hope then as my E71 is well below the requirement. Wish they had just told me this long ago.

This also makes me worry about which Blackberry Devices will be compatible with the Drifta.  The 8520 runs as 512Mhz, as does the 8900. The 9700,9780 and Torch all runs at 624Mhz. Maybe they will just be able to squeeze this to work? Still, most people have the 8520 so this doesn’t look promising.

A lot of the current Android devices run at 1Ghz or more, so it is far more likely that Android users will have a happier experience if the client gets released for them.

I wish DSTV would just come out and say what is planned. The waiting sucks when after the wait you still probably won’t be able to use the device you want when the clients eventually get released. Maybe that is the plan after all? If you wait long enough the devices people have will have caught up with the specifications you actually require but never told them? Too much conspiracy theory in there, but don’t say I never said it.


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