Google made big headlines last week when it finally made its popular video chat service available for Android mobile phones — or at least one Android mobile phone. Official Google Talk functionality was introduced on Android version 2.3.4, launching first on the Google Nexus S handset. Well now there’s a Google video chat option for the rest of the Android ecosystem, as tiny startup SkyMobius has issued the latest version of its Vtok app — making Google Talk available on Android devices version 2.1 or above.
SkyMobius had previously introduced its Vtok Google Talk mobile video chat app for the iPhone, and later optimized that app to take advantage of the iPad 2’s larger screen and front-facing video camera. Next up for the company was building an app for Android, but Google beat Vtok to the punch last week.
Google’s own app, however, is limited to the Google Nexus S for now and future Android devices that will use Android version 2.3.4, just a tiny portion of the overall Android user base. Vtok, in comparison, can be installed on all Android devices version 2.1 or above. That opens up the possibility of Google Talk mobile video chat on more than 90 percent of all Android devices, according to the most recent Android market share data.
That said, there are still some issues trying to get all phones with front-facing cameras to work due to Android fragmentation. Right now, it’s verified to work on the HTC Evo 4G, Google Nexus S, Google Nexus One and all devices using Android OS 2.3. But it’s still working out the kinks on others. In an email, SkyMobius founder Manpreet Singh discussed some of the issues the startup faced in rolling out the Android app. Singh wrote:
“Android had no API for accessing the front facing camera until the 2.3 version. So, although front facing cameras should work for all devices running Android 2.3 or later, front facing camera support among devices running OS 2.1 or 2.2 is limited. Those devices have been listed in the Android market page of Vtok and will be kept updated.”
As a result, SkyMobius considers the Vtok Android app to be in beta while it works out some of the kinks. That said, it still might have a bit of an advantage over other mobile video chat apps. Skype has desktop video chat capability, but has yet to make video chat available on Android. And startups like Tango and Fring, while they have cross-platform video chat apps, don’t have the kind of install base Vtok can leverage by hooking into Google Talk.