Many mainstream consumers were introduced to mobile video chat through the debut of Apple’s FaceTime service, but the fact is: Video calling on phones has been around for years. In Europe, many Nokia devices included front-facing cameras long before FaceTime existed. And video calls on these phones work on standard UMTS networks as seamlessly as a traditional voice call does.
The landscape has changed however. Instead of video calling services that act like regular phone calls on the same cellular networks, a number of video-specific services have cropped up before and after FaceTime: Skype, Google Talk, Qik, and Tango, just to name a few. As more handsets and tablets gain cameras for video chat, you’d think this activity would skyrocket. But it doesn’t seem to be, at least not when compared to other mobile activities such as apps, web browsing, messaging and social networking.
Why is that? I can think of a few reasons. First and possibly the biggest obstacle is that many of these services aren’t cross-platform. You can only use FaceTime with other FaceTime users, for example. Qik — recently purchased by Skype — and Tango are the exceptions here; indeed Tango now works across iOS, Android and Windows Phone handsets.
Connectivity is another potential issue, as some services only run over Wi-Fi networks. And those that do work on 3G or 4G mobile broadband networks could quickly eat up a user’s allotment of monthly data on a tiered or capped data plan. Lastly, it could be — at least in the U.S. — that consumers just aren’t used to video calling or feel the need to do so while mobile.
I suspect that will change over time as our communication will be a mixed recipe with text messaging, voice calls and video chats as the ingredients. I’ve embraced it as a richer experience with my son, who doesn’t live with me.
Regardless of the slow video calling uptake, I know that some of our readers are using such services. I’m curious as to which are most used, given the limitations of both networks and lack of cross-platform support in some. I’ve left room in the poll for those who don’t use mobile video calling, so in the comments, let me know why you don’t.