Let’s face it, today’s phones have eclipsed the traditional “smartphone” moniker and have become known as complete portable media systems — that just happen to make phone calls. We use them as cameras, camcorders, video game systems, music players, movie players — you name it. Never before has so much media been easily and instantly accessible on one small device. While having all that media at our finger tips is absolutely amazing, our 4″ devices aren’t always the best medium for experiencing said media. Being able to seamlessly transfer our media and data between various devices has now become the focus of many manufacturers and is leading us into an age of complete universal connectivity. Consumers want to “plug and play” but that doesn’t always necessarily mean physically “plugging” something in. More and more wireless solutions have been popping up and that leads us to our next product.
Canadian technology company HSTi is one company that has been trying to improve the way we use and enjoy our media files without the mess of cables and they were kind enough to send us one of their Wireless Media Sticks to review. Before I do a rundown of my experience with their Mobostick product, I want you all to know that you will have an opportunity to win the very Mobostick I reviewed, so stay tuned after the break.
Note: Your own results may vary from this review which was done using a Motorola Droid running Android 2.3.4 courtesy of CyanogenMod 7.1.0 RC1 Droid
Mobostick by HSTi
What is a Mobostick? A Mobostick is a Wireless Universal USB connector, that when coupled with the Mobostick app, streams the files from your Android phone or tablet to any device with a USB port. With a Mobostick and an Android 2.0+ device, you can wirelessly:
- Copy files to a computer or laptop
- Stream your music files to a stereo
- Print a photo
- Stream movies, photos and MP3’s to your game console
- Show a Photo slideshow at your friend’s place
- Backup important files from your phone to a computer
- Stream videos, movies, photos MP3’s to any media player, DVD, Blu-ray, flat panel TV in HD
First Impressions (Bear with me, the story is important)
It was a Sunday afternoon and I was over my fathers enjoying some football and a family dinner. I was very excited to try out the Mobostick and since one of its biggest features is its portability and ease of use “anywhere,” I was ready to go. I couldn’t wait to start streaming my media to all the different devices in my fathers house without the use of cables.
I opened the box and found a small USB stick that was lightweight and very portable. I headed straight to the nearest HDTV, like any other right-minded man would do, and began looking for a USB port. My first attempt was a failure — good thing my father had 3 more to choose from. The next TV had a USB port but it was for “Service Only.” Strike two. Next TV — same thing. At this point I’m really starting to have my doubts about actual real world usage of the Mobostick. There I was, in a brand new home my father just built, with all new HDTV’s, and I couldn’t seem to find any that would support USB (other than for service.) My last shot was the TV in my fathers bedroom — BINGO! Finally, a TV with a working USB port. I naively plugged it in and expected it to start reading the files from my phone. A quick ‘facepalm’ was in order and back to the box to actually read the instructions.
In order to use the Mobostick, you need to download the free Mobostick app from the Android Market and you need to setup your Mobostick via a computer. I downloaded the app and then plugged the Mobostick into my father’s computer. Setup was easy enough until I got to the part where I had to connect the Mobostick to a wireless network. For some reason the Mobostick would not connect to my father’s MiFi network and after a couple of tries I gave up. This was turning out to be one big disappointment. The only other way to use the Mobostick is through your phone’s hotspot feature, but since I don’t have that feature, another no-go. I gave up and decided to try it again when I got home. So to recap my initial hands on with the Mobostick:
- TV #1: No USB port
- TV #2: Service Only USB port
- TV #3: Service Only USB port
- TV #4: Usable USB port
- Download app: Quick and Easy
- Setup Mobostick: Starts off good, then fails to connect to MiFi
Things didn’t go well the first time around but now I’m home and ready to give the Mobostick a second try. I plug the Mobostick into my computer, run setup, and BAM — it connects to my Wireless network! Well that was easy! Now to check my five year old plasma TV for a USB port (fingers crossed). Well what-do-you-know, it has one! Plug it in, start the app and — fail. The app failed to connect to my wireless network! I stay calm and try it again — Woohoo! The app connects, Mobostick connects, and my files are now sharing with my TV!
How Well Does it Work?
Now that I managed to get everything connected and working, it was time to see this thing in action. I chose the TV first because I was really interested in seeing how well video would stream from my phone to my TV over the wireless connection. Unfortunately my TV did not support video, so another no-go for me <--insert sad face. It did, however, support music and photos, so that was going to have to do. I tried out the photo streaming first and it worked flawlessly.
Music streaming was excellent. I had no hiccups, no buffering — it never skipped a beat!
The photos and music streamed perfectly to my TV so now it was time to look for other devices that would support the Mobostick. I searched high and low for anything with a USB port. My Blue-Ray player had a USB port so I plugged it in and it worked exactly as it did on the TV (still no video). I looked around for a stereo with a USB port but could not find one. My printers lacked one. I’m a father of three young kids so the only gaming console I had was a Wii and that wasn’t compatible. The only thing left in my house was my computer which was able to read and use just about every file, video included.
Video Streaming via Mobostick
Video Streaming via USB cable
As you can see from the video, streaming video via the Mobostick was very choppy and the audio had trouble keeping up. In all fairness to Mobostick, streaming via the USB cable wasn’t much better. I would have to say, under my current setup, video streaming isn’t a viable option.
Practicality, Cost and Other Options
After spending some time using the Mobostick, I came to the conclusion that while it was nice to have a lightweight, portable wireless solution for streaming data; its USB limitations really hindered the practicality of the device. You would imagine USB to be a pretty universal and abundant technology but truth be told — I had a very hard time finding devices that supported data via USB. While I realize there are many products that do support it, I found the average household void of these devices (minus the computer), which are necessary for the Mobostick to be a viable media streaming device. Then there is the price…
The Mobostick is currently retailing for $89.99, which I’m sorry to say, is a definite deal breaker. While the convenience of not having to use any wires is nice, I would much rather use the free USB cable that came with my device. There aren’t enough situations in which not using my cable would warrant spending $90. One great thing about Android is that you are allowed the freedom of accessing your files (unlike a certain fruit) via USB so plugging your phone into any supported USB will give you full access to your media at any time for free. Sure you’ll have to leave the phone plugged in, but when we’re talking about media it’s not that big of a deal. You show some photos, listen to some music, share a document or presentation — it really doesn’t require the need to be wireless.
When you think of the availability of USB compatible devices, there’s almost an equal amount of devices that accept SD/micro SD, etc. This is another cheap option for sharing media between devices and is highly portable as well. There are also numerous DLNA and UPNP options for streaming your media, but Mobostick says:
These Apps depend on technologies like home networks and Wireless enabled media players to work. How portable is a solution that depends on hardware you just left back in your home? How practical is it to take your TV and router wherever you go?
I say, “how is your product any different?” The Mobostick depends on either a home network or your phone’s wireless hotspot feature (which not many people have btw). In other words, if you’re in a spot without WiFi and you don’t pay (yes I know there are “other” ways) for the hotspot feature, you can’t use Mobostick. In this respect, the cable far outweighs the advantages of the Mobostick. As for a wireless solution to transfer to your computer or laptop? A Bluetooth dongle costs around $10 and will accomplish this. Let’s not forget the multitude of cloud storage services like Dropbox.
All in all, the $90 price tag is not sensible for any consumer who can and will use cheaper, more efficient methods. Personally, I would never consider purchasing the Mobostick at its current price. I was honestly shocked when I saw the price as I expected it to be between $20-$35.
Once you’ve found a compatible network and a compatible device, the Mobostick works extremely well and had an impressive range (I walked my entire house without a single hiccup). The Mobostick app is very fluid and I found no issues when sharing folders. The product and app definitely work as advertised, but the lack of compatible devices, and real-world use, make it more of an unnecessary convenience than anything. Since we are known to be lovers of “unnecessary conveniences,” I would still be able to recommend this product was it not for its current price. At $89.99 I can’t think of a single practical use to justify the price, and thus highly recommend looking at other cheaper alternatives for your data transfer needs.
Mobostick — I liked your product, and while I really don’t need it, I’d be willing to buy it if it were much, much cheaper. For now, my free USB cable continues to work just fine.
Win Yourself a Mobostick
Now that the review is over and I have sparked your interest or non-interest in the Mobostick — I will be giving it away to one lucky reader! All you have to do to win is leave a comment listing the devices currently in your home that support media transfer via USB. I will then choose one winner at random to receive the Mobostick used in this review. The giveaway will run until Friday October 7,
1am EST Edit: Sorry, I meant 12pmEST. Winner will be announced sometime the following Monday. Make sure your comment method is attached to a working email or source that we can reach you at should you win. Good luck and thanks to HSTi and Mobostick!
For more information about HSTi or Mobostick please visit their site at http://hsti.com/mobostick