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Summary:

The 4G iPhone will be one of the first handsets to bring mobile video chat to the masses. A new report from our GigaOM Pro research team estimates that by 2015 video chat will grow to 30 billion calls helped by handsets like the latest iPhone.

The unveiling of the next generation iPhone tomorrow isn’t just the next iteration of an iconic phone, it may also be one of the first handsets to bring mobile video chat to the masses. The iPhone 4G will almost certainly offer its owners the chance to video chat on their phones thanks to a front-facing camera, and that new capability could spur more video chat adoption. In fact, a new report from GigaOM Pro’s Alfred Poor and Michael Wolf estimates that by 2015 video chat will grow from just under 600 million video calls to 30 billion, helped in part by the growth from video chatting via mobile phones.

The report, “Can You See Me Now? The New World of Consumer Visual Communications” (sub req’d) explains how ubiquitous high speed broadband connections and low-cost and integrated webcams make it easy for consumers to connect not just with voice, but with video. For example, I’ve written how my dad no longer wants to talk to me, when he could video chat instead, and Skype CEO Josh Silverman, Cisco and even Logitech are placing their bets on video calls becoming a bigger presence in people’s lives for work and play.

The report goes into depth on the current and emerging players in video chat, as well as breaks down the numbers of video calls that will take place on a PC, television and on mobile phones. The PC keeps its lead over the other two through 2015, but video chat via mobiles makes noticeable gains by 2012 and grows rapidly through 2015. The report anticipates 3.2 million consumers will complete video chats via their mobiles in 2010 (after the iPhone 4G, Skype is releasing a Nokia N900 video chat client) and expects that to reach 142.9 million by 2015.

For Internet Service Providers, the growth of video chat is both a source of concern and possible extra revenue. Video chats take up far more bandwidth than a voice call depending on the quality, and both wireline and wireless operators are concerned about how that traffic may affect their networks. On wireline networks, caps, tiered pricing plans and network management tactics that slow broadband during times of congestion or during certain hours could hinder video chat.

On mobile networks, which have limited capacity, operators are already implementing different pricing plans in order to condition customers to watch their usage. AT&T the exclusive carrier for the iPhone, just killed off its unlimited plans for new iPhone subscribers last week, perhaps in anticipation of the effects video chat could have on its network.

But there’s no question that video chat is coming, and that it will change the way people communicate. For those who want to learn what roadblocks still lie ahead for the technology, how people may pay for it and more details about how quickly it will grow, read the full analysis.

  1. Ummm HTC Evo 4G Android phone already does this NOW, except it can also do it over 4G which the iPhone HD can’t handle.

    …and good luck getting it to work on the AT&T network as you can now see the person’s face as the call gets dropped – that is magical & revolutionary!

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  2. Umm, not with tiered data pricing. Maybe some one will come up with impressive compression techniques but video chat would likely stay limited to when users can use unlimited plans ( including use of WiFi on their mobiles)

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  3. is this article really from 2010?

    video chat is available for years on europe. on mobile phones we have video calls since 3G was implemented, ages ago.

    i guess the USA are still living on the mobile phone stone age.

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    1. Michael Wolf Monday, June 7, 2010

      Ze luis – we never said mobile video chat wasn’t happening today. It’s just not happening on a wide scale. An iPhone w/video chat functionality, or a Blackberry, or Android device – that’s a gamechanger.

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    2. You must feel cool… Jerk!

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  4. Excellent points about EVO, europe, and ATT’s “new and improved” pricing structure. Seems they implemented that just in time to hamstring Jobs new iToy. Not a good time to be a iPhanboi.

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  5. You know, this is the thing that really gets my goat…the iPhone love boat nonsense. Is this an article about mobile video chat or a pseudo Apple/iPhone extended lovefest? I’m tired of otherwise sensible writers prostituting their writing abilities for the quick score of an eyeball by mentioning the iPhone at every twist and turn. My goodness Stacey, why talk about what might be when the HTC EVO 4G already does it.

    Give credit where credit is due! HTC has shaken up the market and deserve the recognition for doing so. And just to let you know, I own neither of these phones. Writing tech articles should be fair and balanced taking into account what is in the marketplace if you are to proclaim what MIGHT be. You quote the year 2015 as the focus point of your analysis still focusing on the iphone 4G. May I remind you that 5 years in this industry and market is a very, very long time. The dominance that Apple has enjoyed over the recent past I hardly expect to last that long. Other players will emerge and be successful. History has taught us that.

    Apple is not the only player out there. So please be less biased. Nuff said!!

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    1. The article just states the iPhone 4G w/video chat is a catalyst, not the be-all-end-all for mobile video chat. You can hardly say an HTC EVO 4G will spark a market in the same way a new generation iPhone will. That’s like saying a tablet computer from HTC would do what the iPad is currently doing to the tablet computer market.

      Bottom line – Apple has an ability to bring new technologies to mass-consciousness faster than any other company on the planet. That’s a fact. Will they own the mobile video chat market? No. Will the spark it on a wider scale? If they introduce it today into the iPhone line, yes.

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      1. Bottom line is Apple has phenomenal marketing. Mobile video isn’t new, let alone proprietary to Apple. Portable MP3 wasn’t new when ipod came into play. There is nothing new with Apple. They just have an uncanny ability to convince people that things are new and exclusive.

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  6. So we all understand that video traffic will be the lion’s share of data traveling over the mobile network. Cisco’s VNI states that by 2014, mobile data will be 50 times what it was in 2009. It is also great to see broadband applications pushing the envelope on both wireline and wireless networks.

    The problem here is not the endpoint or the application — it’s the network. Just look at how poorly AT&T has supported the networks in NYC and the Bay Area. Now we will add even more data traffic (video) to an already saturated network? What is AT&T’s response — change the data plans and penalize users if they go over their allocated data usage.

    There needs to be a more intelligent solution in managing the 63.9 EB per month that is coming in/by 2014. We need to have some type of national wireless broadband plan that addresses these issues.

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  7. There is one dirty secret about mobile video chat. It’s the real reason there’s no video chat on the iPad.
    It’s called Angle of View. If the phone is below your face, you’re going to get one of those Monster Movie weird perspective shots that are all Chin & Nostril. Imagine doing video chat on an iPad. You would hold it on your lap or your desk looking down on it. NOT a flattering perspective. It’d be quite a strain to hold the thing at arms length level to your head, wouldn’t it?
    The problem is similar, but not as severe with a video phone.

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    1. Another thing that is overlooked is that people tend to want a little privacy on a phone call. So you add a headset to your video conference, or you blare a speakerphone conversation in front of anyone and everyone. I don’t see this as a game changer for anyone but the sexting crowd.

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  8. [...] mobile thanks the FaceTime announcement today from Apple – and a well timed release of data from GigaOM, promising an almost 10-fold increase in the number of video calls between now and 2015. This foot-to-the-floor acceleration will be in no small way driven by [...]

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  9. [...] Video Calling’s Past Future   With Apple’s announcement yesterday of Facetime (i.e. video calling on the new iPhone), there’s a lot more focus lately in the tech press on video calling in general, and it’s potential as a “game changing technology”.  Personally I think it’s time for a reality check on that. Video calling, or the VideoPhone, has been the “next great thing” for a while.  The earliest production videophone system was in Germany in 1936.  AT&T had a demo unit in the 1964 World’s Fair.  I can remember various iterations of video calling or conferencing technology, from CUCMe to Skype.  Video calling has always been “just around the corner.”  And yet somehow it never seems to get here. I know in my own experience with video calling, the calls themselves have always felt fairly awkward.  Having to be aware of one’s expression, the focus on one’s face, lends itself to a certain “video anxiety” that seems to get in the way of the act of “calling”.  I think that’s something the futurists predicting the rise of video calling miss.  What’s the point of calling generally?  It’s to communicate, and I find that that “video anxiety” actually gets in the way of communication. That’s not to say that there aren’t use-cases for video calling.  A new baby, being far from home and friends/family, even the occasional one-off.  And over time, as the technology gets easier and less technical, the barriers to video calling may come down enough for the next generation to pick it up as a natural part of their communication ecology.  But I don’t think that’s going to happen over night. Take Apple’s new version.  You have to be on wi-fi.  That’s a barrier, which will keep people from being able to use this.  You have to have an iPhone, probably the latest one.  That’s a barrier too, despite the wide success of the iPhone and the high probability of a LOT of people buying it.  It’s still liable to be a fairly small % of your friends that you’d be able to use this with.  Those two are actually quite substantial barriers. So I really don’t see this latest round of hype on video calling actually meaning that the technology will be widely used and accepted.  That may change some day… and certainly the recent moves in the space by Apple and others may move us towards that day.  But it’s still not here yet.  I’m going to leave video calling just slightly ahead of self-driving cars on my “future technologies” list… it may be here, but it’s not ready for prime-time yet. For GigaOm’s take on the space, check out this article. [...]

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  10. Michel Martin I just bought a HTC EVO 4g sorry i’m new in all this. question My HTC Evo has a web camara? can i chat on it?

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