TV Prices 'Firm'; Mobile Phones 'Feature-Up'

Are prices finally going to stabilize - maybe even rise - for big screen TVs this year? And are those curious concepts of using your smart phone as a charge card or mobile TV gaining traction?

We've been tracking these trends this super busy tech week. 

The End Is Nigh: Retailers meeting in Orlando at the Nationwide and BrandSource buying group conventions heard  promises from Samsung, Sony and LG that the manufacturers will actively hold the line on prices for at least the hottest new 2012 TVs. (Sony also made vows for its digital cameras).

The aim is to stop the deep discounting of online stores which  are eating the "bricks and mortar" retailers alive and  also inflicting major damage on set producers. TV sellers that don't go along with the "minimum advertised price" policies will be bared from carrying a given series of products for 90 days. The new policy goes into effect today  (Thursday, March 1) - maybe explaining why there were so many  wicked "Leap Year Day" TV pricing specials available on-line yesterday?

Phone Bits: Momentum is building for charge card giant Visa's new payWave technology,  which lets users swipe their smart phone across a sensor to buy goods and services. At  the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Visa said the number of "certified" phone models containing the pre-requisite NFC (near field communications) chip will at least double this year. The feature is already found in Samsung's Galaxy S II, LG's Optimus NET NFC and four Blackberry phones - the Bold 9900, Bold 9790, Curve 9360 and Curve 9380.

Looks like LG has another feature in the works for its' mobile phones. That's a built-in tuner for receiving the new breed of Mobile Digital TV channels - a broadcast format  LG is pushing hard. Company spokesman John Taylor hinted of this "secret  sauce" capability at the Public Media Summit sponsored by the Association of Public TV Stations. Three public stations are about to start testing a Mobile DTV emergency alert system which, if successful, could spark a government push for the so-far, so-what MDTV cause. 

Sprint, meanwhile, has just introduced the Sprint TV app for Apple's iPhone. The really big deal - the app delivers  several stations for FREE, including the Disney Channel plus news and sports services from ABC, CBS, NBC and ESPN. But to enjoy this  freebie, you need to subscribe to Sprint's unlimited data plan, no longer available (jab-jab) to new customers with iPhones from AT&T and Verizon. Three premium content  tiers focused on Hispanic and children's programming are also available on the iPhone-dized  Sprint TV app at $5-$10 a month, along with some video-on-demand content.