MotoCast Video Streaming Hands-On

Today Motorola announced their MotoCast service which they tout as a “personal cloud.” Instead of storing your music, photos, and videos on a server somewhere, you connect your phone to a computer (or many) and stream content directly from there. No intermediary sync necessary.

You can debate whether this is as useful as cloud storage, but there’s one aspect to this service that makes it highly desirable: streaming video in almost every popular format from your computer to the phone without the need to transcode.

Setting up MotoCast seems easy enough. The first time users plug the RAZR into their computer, one partition of the disk will register as a CD with a setup file on it. Run that to install the MotoCast software, authorize it to communicate with the phone, and you’re all set.

MotoCast Setup

Users can browse folders and files from the computer on the phone just as if they were native, then tap to view or stream. You can also long tap to download the media to the phone.

The only issue I have with MotoCast is that your computer has to be on for this to work. One of the good things about the cloud is that it’s always on. Leaving my computer on all day just in case I need something from it seems like a waste of electricity. However, the video streaming feature might just make up for that.

The MotoCast software on the computer not only handles listing the files and giving you access, but also controls the streaming. When you stream video from the computer it transcodes it to deliver at a bitrate that matches the phone’s connection speed. If you’re on 3G the bitrate will be lower than if you’re on WiFi or even 4G.

Additionally, the utility will stream a wide variety of video file types — including AVI, MP4, QuickTime, DivX, Windows Media, and Flash — even if the phone doesn’t natively support them. That’s because the program transcodes the video into H.264 before streaming it out. If users download the video file to the RAZR itself it won’t be the transcoded version, but the original.

Motorola reps said that the RAZR will support a wider format base than stock Android, but not as many as MotoCast can stream.

This is probably the biggest deal with MotoCast. Plenty of services will stream music and pictures to your phone, but streaming video and transcoding it for you? Heaven. Plus, you can play that video via the HDMI out port to an HD screen (in HD, yes) or on the laptop docks. That alone makes it worth leaving my computer on when I’m traveling.