Smartphones are great for a lot of things, but group presentations aren’t one of them. It’s not much fun to crowd people around a tiny screen. But what if you had a projector in a phone? That could be useful for everything from showing photos to doing business presentations. That’s what the Moviphone, introduced at CES 2018, offers. In addition to being a general-purpose Android Nougat smartphone, it features a 50-lumen Laser-MEMS projector which can project an image up to 200 diagonal inches. It can run up to four hours with the projector turned on. The company producing the phone is Wireless Mobi Solution, which was launched in 2008. It’s a very small company, and this appears to be its first consumer product.
The Moviphone isn’t the first phone with a built-in projector. Samsung tried twice, with the Galaxy Beam in 2012 and the Galaxy Beam 2 in 2014. Neither one was a huge hit. This new phone, though, offers more brightness and more pixels. Its image is 1280 x 720 pixels, compared with 800 x 400 for the Beam 2. Its laser projector’s 50 lumens are twice what Samsung gave. The contrast ratio is an impressive 80,000:1. The Samsung phones had to bulge a bit to include a projector. The Moviphone is uniformly 10.28 mm thick and weighs less than 200 grams (7 ounces). It’s available with 32 or 64 gigabytes of storage. In normal use without the projector, the battery gives 22 hours of talk time or 285 hours of idle time. Other features include front and back cameras, a micro SD slot that can bring storage up to 128 GB, a Micro USB connector, GPS, E-Compass, gyroscope, and fingerprint sensing. The screen resolution is 1920 x 1080 pixels.
Skeptics have their doubts about the projector in a phone. They say it makes more sense to buy the best phone for the money and use an external projector. The phone is tied up the whole time it’s presenting a show; what would you do if the phone rings during a business presentation? People who have regular reasons for projecting images might be better off with something more suited to the job. Pocket projectors are available that deliver more lumens and pixels than any phone, and some are self-contained Android devices. They weigh a bit more than a phone, but they aren’t hard to carry around. On the other hand, a phone is always available without having to bring anything else along. The question is whether the Moviphone’s improvements will create a sufficient niche to hang on in the market. Certainly WMS will have a difficult battle against better-known brands. If Samsung didn’t have enough marketing clout to convince people to buy a phone with a projector, will a small startup company be able to do it? Then again, the computing industry is full of giants that were originally tiny operations with a big idea.
Obviously, a Moviphone isn’t a replacement for a full-fledged digital projector. Its value is in spur-of-the-moment uses, and that could be enough to justify it. Once cameras were a quirky extra in phones; now they’re standard equipment, and they’ve displaced a large part of the amateur digital camera market. Projectors aren’t at that point yet, but they may get there before long. A Moviphone is good for a small room, but it wouldn’t be up to projecting for a larger hall. The sound comes from the phone’s tiny speaker, though speakers can be hooked up to the headphone jack. It’s a simple and convenient way to show images or videos to a small group of people, and sometimes that’s what you want, especially from a projector in a phone. Is the technology advanced enough to catch on this time? Can WMS grab enough interest from the big companies to build a viable niche? If it does, other companies will be sure to follow.