Ina Fried

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Verizon Finds an Innovative Way for Customers to Bust Through Their Data Caps

Verizon Wireless on Tuesday is launching a new Android app that aims to make it even easier for customers to find video from their mobile device.

Dubbed Viewdini, the app allows users to search for a particular title, actor or keyword across a variety of video services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Comcast Xfinity and mSpot.

“We are just seeing a hunger for people wanting to watch video,” Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead said in an interview. Viewdini isn’t a video service in its own right, but rather a portal of content found on others’ services. Still, Mead called Viewdini one of the carrier’s key product launches for the year.

“I think this will capture the audience’s imagination,” Mead said.

The idea is that the ability to stream high-quality video is one of the things that sets LTE apart from other wireless services. Of course, one of the big challenges is that although the service is plenty fast, watching just a handful of hours of video in a month could put a customer over their data allotment.

Mead said that Verizon has plenty of systems in place to keep customers from unknowingly going over their data limit, including text alerts when customers hit 50 percent, 75 percent and 90 percent of their data limit.

“We never want customers to be surprised,” Mead said. However, he added that the company also has competitive pricing for customers who find video they want to watch and choose to go over their original data cap. “We look at it as great flexibility for customers.”

In addition to helping find videos, Viewdini will also have IMDB-style information on the movies and TV shows. Mead said that Viewdini will be limited to Verizon Wireless customers when it launches later this month.

“This is a competitive differentiator,” Mead said.

While Viewdini is Android-only at launch, the carrier said it expects eventually to add support for other operating systems.

Mead said that Verizon is working to spur strong demand for mobile services, as well as enough bandwidth to serve that demand. Mead said that the company is pleased with how its 4G LTE network is being used thus far.

“What we’re seeing is the growth that we wanted to see,” he said. “What we are seeing is customers discovering the breadth of what they can do on the Verizon network. We’re very encouraged by that.”

Only a small fraction of Verizon Wireless customers are on 4G LTE, however, with the vast majority of its customers still using 3G service.

Verizon has been actively pitching the power of what the new higher-speed network can do, through its own efforts like Viewdini, as well as through content partnerships, including its deal with the National Hockey League, in which its 4G customers get added content when using the league’s mobile app.

Next up on Mead’s to-do list is acquiring the spectrum needed to build the next generation of networks. Part of that strategy involves the company’s proposed deal to acquire a swath of spectrum from a group of cable companies — a deal opposed by T-Mobile, Sprint and an organization of rural carriers.

“We view AWS [the spectrum it is seeking to buy from the cable companies] as the spectrum where we will expand our LTE services and capacity going forward,” Mead said. “We’re still encouraged that we’ll have approval to move on later on this summer.”

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus