Qik: iPhone Was Video-capable All Along

Wait, we thought the iPhone wasn’t capable of shooting video! So we were surprised to hear today that not one, but two startups have figured out how to stream live video from the older versions of the phones. These devices have been out nearly a year now — so why are these guys figuring it out now? And not just shooting video, but streaming it live?

Qik discovered that the camera on the iPhone was video-capable earlier this year, co-founder and VP product marketing Bhaskar Roy told us this afternoon. But the phone had no built-in encoder or video engine to actually capture video. In the past few months the company worked on building a solution, but was waiting until Steve Jobs’ iPhone 2 release on Monday to see if Apple would include a video engine itself and make Qik’s solution obsolete.

When Jobs’ keynote came out video-free, Qik decided to push out its own product — an encoder bundled with live-streaming software. Roy said he was as surprised as we were that competitor Flixwagon also posted a near-identical demo online today.

As Roy described it, Qik had never before had to build its own video encoder; on Nokia and Windows Mobile phones there is built-in software. For the iPhone, he said:

“What we do is we open the camera for the iPhone and we capture that video, and then we optimize that video, which is basically just encoding it and looking for what network is best.”

Qik will start giving alpha users access to the new version next week. If you’d like to try out Qik on your iPhone, email [email protected] to get on the list. As for Flixwagon, they’re in Israel, so we’re told we’ll have to wait for a full technical explanation till tomorrow.

Despite the fact that iPhone users would probably be interested in using Qik’s encoder to capture any video, live-streaming style or not, Roy said that Qik would stay focused on live streaming. Further, as commenter Kevin Lim points out, live-streaming may be a good solution for a device with limited storage.

So why has Apple been keeping it quiet that its little wonderphone was capable of capturing video, when that was one of the features most desired by its customers? We can only think it was worried about bandwidth and performance issues. EDGE is slow enough without clogging the pipes and as comparatively speedy as they may be, even 3G networks face the same problems. Users are probably going to want to connect to local Wi-Fi if they want good service.

But if AT&T’s network is able to withstand the onslaught of bi-directional video, we wouldn’t be surprised if Apple launches a variation of its own.