Vtok Brings Google Video Chat to the iPhone

The mobile video chat market is heating up, with Apple, (s AAPL) Skype, Yahoo!, (s YHOO) Tango.me and others building applications that enable users to call and watch each other on video. And while Google (s GOOG) hasn’t joined the fray yet, a new app called Vtok will finally let Google Talk video chat users connect with friends on their iPhones — and soon, on Android mobile devices as well.

Vtok hooks into Google Talk, providing users with a list of all their contacts that are available for video chat and enabling them to initiate both voice and video chat calls. The app runs in the background and will send push notifications if someone tries to start a video chat with a user that’s logged in. Users that are signed in and receive call requests can choose to speak either by voice or video. Calls can be made or received on both Wi-Fi and 3G networks.

The Vtok app, which is now live in the Apple App Store, was built iOS developer Manpreet Singh. As a one-man project, Vtok was developed over a bunch of “late nights and weekends” during the last four or five months, he told me during a phone interview. While it took some finagling to get the app working, Singh said that Google Talk’s voice and video protocol are completely open and all documentation is available for developers to build their own interoperable applications.

So why hasn’t anyone else built a mobile app for Google Talk’s video chat yet? Singh thinks part of the reason is that Apple didn’t make it easy for video streaming apps to get approval prior to the release of its FaceTime video chat app last summer. Since then, Apple has been more lenient with video chat approvals, which has opened the doors for competing video chat apps from Skype, Yahoo and others.

Singh is still trying to figure out a business model for the app. While it is being released for free on the Apple App Store, he is currently considering a freemium model through which the app would make advanced features available for a small fee. He is also working on an Android version of the app, which he expects to release soon.

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