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Summary:

Many mainstream consumers were introduced to mobile video chat via Apple’s FaceTime service, but video calling from phones has been around for a while and works on regular cellular networks. Now that we have a number of mobile video chat services, which are you using?

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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.

  1. Still not into people seeing me when I’m talking to them. I don’t want to roll out of bed and video chat or have them see un-done hair or put make-up on. That’s the joy of being a remote worker: not having to do that every day like I did at an office job.

    The kids use it far more often, for calling cousins on the West Coast. For that, we default to FaceTime first, then Skype.

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  2. Tango uses the least amount of data video . an hour of video chat via tango uses about 0.5 megabytes, compared to 1GB via skype.

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  3. Video calling has never been popular, going back many decades.

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    1. Neither were mobile apps. ;)

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    2. I video chat with my b4 every day. She lives 200 km away. We could only meet each other ice a month. Thanks tango.

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  4. Personally I don’t see the attraction of video chat. If I want to look at someone’s face bad enough I’ll just go visit them in person.

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  5. I think video is huge and will just get bigger. You can’t just get on a plane and visit someone 500 miles away, unless your rich. I don’t slow ays have time to go visit vendors of face to face chats, thats where video is great as well.

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  6. RT @jimscheinman: Tango free video call is #1! Poll: Which mobile video chat service do you use? http://t.co/bq4nAik8

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