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9/29/2009
02:28 PM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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Do Phones Really Need A Mobile High-Def Connector Port?

Some of the world's largest phone companies -- including the likes of Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson -- have banded together and formed the Mobile High-Definition Interface Working Group. The group's plan is to create a new, standardized port for mobile phones that can feed high-definition video and audio signals to HDTVs. Is this really necessary?

Some of the world's largest phone companies -- including the likes of Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson -- have banded together and formed the Mobile High-Definition Interface Working Group. The group's plan is to create a new, standardized port for mobile phones that can feed high-definition video and audio signals to HDTVs. Is this really necessary?Last week, Samsung and Sprint announced the Instinct HD. The Instinct HD's claim to fame is that it can record high-definition video. While the Instinct HD's built-in display itself is not capable of showing an HD signal, it can pass HD video to an HDTV through an HDMI port that is built into the phone.

Anyone familiar with HDMI ports -- found on HDTVs, cable boxes, Apple TV, Playstation 3, Blu-Ray players, etc. -- knows that HDMI is a fairly compact port. HDMI can transit HD movies and 5.1 digital surround sound. One cable that does pretty much everything you need to get high-quality video and audio from the source to the display.

I examined the HDMI port on the Instinct HD over the weekend. It is nice and tidy, and is tucked into the side of the phone without adding any bulk to the design. Despite an existing standard with a good physical footprint, Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and Silicon Image think differently.

From today's press release, the Mobile High-Definition Interface Working Group says that it wants "to provide an easy and cost-effective implementation for manufacturers while offering consumers a simple and reliable mobile connectivity experience. A single-cable with a low pin count interface will be able to support up to 1080p high-definition (HD) digital video and HD audio in addition to delivering power to a portable device."

Does HDMI not already match this description? HDMI ports measure 0.45 inches by 0.15 inches, according to my measurements. That's hardly "big". The Samsung Instinct HD, which houses an HDMI port, measures a svelte 13mm.

I have to wonder if this is a licensing issue. Do mobile phone makers want to avoid licensing HDMI from the standards body that created it? Do mobile phone makers want to have their own product to license to other OEMs? What's the real impetus behind this effort? Today's announcement didn't say, though some of the members of the new working group are part of the body that license the HDMI standard.

The one issue that could be at play is cost of the hardware. The Group says it wants a low pin-count connector. Reducing the pin count leads to a less complicated motherboard, which in turn could generate cost savings. But will the cost of creating the new standard outweigh the benefits in the long run?

What do you think, is this a worthwhile endeavor?

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