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Garfield, Ninja Turtles Streaming Soon To Mobile Phones

Comic book fans will soon have many more choices on where to find media for mobile phones.
Comic book fans will soon have many more choices on where to find media for mobile phones. Sprint on Thursday officially launched a service through content provider uclick at the Comic-Con International 2006 in San Diego.

GoComics subscribers agreeing to pay $3.99 monthly now have an option through Sprint to choose from several titles they can download through a mobile reader.

Verizon Wireless, Cingular Wireless and other carriers will also begin offering the GoComics service in August, said Jeff Webber, uclick mobile content director.

Among the new titles GoComics offers are "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "Five Fists of Science," "Godland;" and "Guilstein," which is the first time the comic series has been published in the United States, as well as in English. Content is refreshed daily.

And other mobile content is on the way, too. Games are being developed. Sprint also this fall will launch a mobile video channel featuring "Garfield," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," and more.

High-speed networks, better screen resolution on handsets, and added memory capacity on handsets are solving some of the problems that slowed growth in the past.

Sprint, for example, later this year will begin moving from an EVDO network, which offers download speeds of approximately 700 K, toward an "EVDO Rev 4" network, with download speeds between 2- and 3-megabytes per second, said Scott Stemmermann, product manager for entertainment marketing at Sprint.

"You couldn't get an optimal user experience with the older handsets," Stemmermann said. "It made the user experience clunky. For example, the panels on the comic strips didn't transition smoothly, and sometimes the screen would pixilated."

Preparing the comic strip for delivery on mobile phones, UIEvoltion Inc. developers use the markup language UJML to write the application once for either Brew or Java operating system, and repurpose it to run on the hundreds of phones available through carriers. "It's a lot faster and cheaper," said Travis Beaven, director of consumer products studio for the software provider geared toward interactive content.

Artists and content publishers said they want to keep the traditional comic-strip format alive as comics move onto mobile technology. So, subscribers will thumb through still image frames one at a time.

Meal on Wheels fundraiser Keith Antigiovanni, a faithful Comic-Con attendee since 1987, said he'd likely subscribe to the service. "Yes, I would read the comics while waiting or riding the trolleys," he said. "The still frames sound a little outdated, like a view master, but anything is better than nothing."

In a way, Antigiovanni represents the demand out there for streaming comics strips to cellular phones. SmashPhone, a California startup, beat out the big guys when it launched a free daily comic strip service in May. Rather than a subscription service, co-founder Robin Rowe said when launching the service that SmashPhone would charge advertisers 5 cents per frame.