Yahoo Gets Into Mobile Video Chat Game

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Yahoo plans to bring its popular Yahoo Messenger client to iPhone and Android phones, enabling FaceTime-like video chat conversations across multiple platforms, both mobile and PC. David Katz, Yahoo’s VP of Mobile for the Americas region, shared the news with Reuters, saying the apps are on their way soon to the iPhone and Android platforms, pending approval. The apps, which would operate on both 3G and Wi-Fi, would take advantage of new forward-facing cameras on devices like the iPhone 4, HTC EVO and Epic and the upcoming myTouch from T-Mobile.

The competition among mobile video chat providers is heating up. We just wrote about Tango, the latest mobile video chat client that tries to compete against Apple’s FaceTime, Fring and Qik. But a Yahoo Messenger client would offer the prospect of conducting video calls not only between mobile phones but also between mobile and PC-bound users. Yahoo reportedly has 81 million Yahoo Messenger users worldwide.

FaceTime has proven to be a popular feature of the iPhone 4 and a major marketing point for the device. However, the service only works between iPhone 4 — and now iPod touch — devices, and only over Wi-Fi. Tango and Fring have worked to reduce some of those limitations by enabling 3G and cross-platform interoperability, and it seems like users are excited about the prospect of more video chat capabilities on their phone. Tango shot up to No. 3 in the App Store in the U.S. on the free social networking category shortly after launching late last month.

It’s still hard to match the overall ease of use that FaceTime provides, which enjoys the advantage of being built right into iOS. If done well, Yahoo Messenger could be a worthy alternative, because of its reach and the promise of communicating between phone and computer. And it will help Yahoo further position itself in mobile. Skype should also be in the market as well and it’s still surprising they don’t have a mobile video chat product available.

Hopefully, we’ll see the Yahoo apps shortly, although there’s no guarantee Apple is going to play along. The company hasn’t opened up FaceTime to 3G calls, perhaps for fear of overloading AT&T’s network. While Fring and Tango have been approved, allowing Yahoo video calls on AT&T’s network might give AT&T some pause.

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