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Can You See Me Now? The Future of Video Chat

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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 (s aapl) 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 (s csco) 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 (s 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.

18 Responses to “Can You See Me Now? The Future of Video Chat”

  1. james braselton

    hi there too late i have the iphone 4 and have had 5 video phone calls through face time soo i have already making those video call numbers real just too bad this page was after iphone 4 mot hefore iphone 4

  2. Jose Rivera

    To people out their that think they know about the iphone:The new iphone 4g is crap here is why. ever since the first iphone the design is the same, the software, and the lack of adobe or macro flash. The iPhone 4g is just the same except it looks like a brick which is a pretty plain and non stylish design. They havent addded any more features except video call which htc had done before them and also the only hardware update is an HD processor and the resolution is still no match for the Evo 4g on the sprint network. You cant change the way your screen looks just a bunch of widget squares(wack). Also it runs on a sluggish network. Verizon nor ATT&T have good service and rates. Now Sprint’s HTC EVO 4G is the best cell phone made to date. It nearly tripled the sales of the iPhone 3g,3gs, and 4g two months before the Evo release date and through all the comments made from the world the evo is a 5 star quality phone. Also runs flash and the android web browser which toats the iPhone’s web browser any day and any where. Finally Sprint’s EVDO Network is 4g and they are the first and only company to have a 4g network and its proven to be very powerfull(More than3 times the strength of 3g).Also most of the apps in the apple store cost $ and most of the apps in the android market are FREE. People the iphone 4(g) is the same as the old iPhones no difference and also they all are very easy to scratch or break(screen cracks). Sure winner is clearly Sprint’s HTC EVO 4G!

  3. I understand there is a boom in video chat via people’s phones but what is the future of video chat web sites? The adult cam market has exploded over the last few years but I don’t see many clean cam chat sites around. I have one at and it is slowly growing but I know if I allowed nudity it would be an instant hit.

    Any have any ideas on the future of cam chat websites?

  4. 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.

    • 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Nobbie

    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!!

    • 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.

      • 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.

  7. 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.

  8. ze luis

    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.

  9. Jack Wong

    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)

  10. 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!