FaceTime was introduced by Apple in 2010 and has gained popularity since. With more products such as Macs, iPad 2 and iPod touch being supported, the video-call software has become more flexible.
Fring is a London-based company that develops a well-known instant messaging client for iOS. After improving its client for the last few months, the company is finally taking it a step up: bringing multi-person video conferencing to the iPad. This is the first App of its kind on the iPad: while the native video calling app, such as FaceTime, only allows 2-way video chats.
Mac users have already been able to do some group video calling with recent beta versions of Skype, but the company has now finally brought things fully up to speed with its Windows counterpart and released the final version of Skype 5.0 for OS X. In addition to group video calling, the application sports a whole new interface that Skype says has been “slimmed down” (compared to the previous beta versions, at least) and allows you to see 30 percent more contacts at once. As with the Windows version, however, that group video calling feature has now been relegated to the premium package which, after a free seven-day trial, will run you $4.99 for a day pass or $8.99 a month for a subscription (though you can get 33 percent off if you sign up before February 28th). Head on past the break for quick video overview.
You know those voice minutes you’ve been coaxed into buying for, like, ever? Now would be an awesome time to bid ’em adieu. Out of nowhere, Viber has swooped in to crush the dreams of Skype and every other VoIP provider out there, and if these guys can reach critical mass, avid iPhone users will certainly be able to buy a mobile plan with fewer minutes. It works as such: install the free app on your iPhone, provide just your phone number (no “registration” is necessary) and then fire it up. Viber uses your existing contact and favorites list, and you can make Viber or standard voice calls from within the app; naturally, a Viber logo pops up beside any contact who is also a user, making it easy to see who you can VoIP call for free. As our brethren over at TUAW point out, there’s simply no catch to be found — well, except for those of you counting your kilobytes on AT&T’s newer, metered data plans. Call quality was said to be excellent over 3G and WiFi, and potentially best of all, gratis SMS and an Android version are both on the way. Head on past the break if you need any additional convincing, and tap that iTunes link to get your download on. So, AT&T, what’s the value proposition on those “rollover minutes” again?
Not stoked on Skype or FaceTime? Looks like you’ve got another option, bub. That overhauled Yahoo Messenger app we told you about 48 hours ago is now live in the App Store, offering multitasking on the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, 3G / WiFi video calling (iOS to iOS, iOS to Android or iOS to PC) and instant notifications. Users interested in making voice calls can also tap into their bucket of Yahoo Voice Phone Out minutes, but it’ll only work in America, France, Germany, Spain and Singapore at the moment. Hit that source link to get your download on, cool?
The iPhone 4 launched this weekend in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, but buyers wound up with a surprise — their handset’s front-facing cameras couldn’t do FaceTime. The National reports that the video chat feature is missing from phones sold at UAE carriers Etisalat and du, as well as those from Vodafone Qatar. Carriers are blaming Apple for the missing feature, and spokespersons from both Etisalat and Vodafone say they’re speaking to Cupertino about reinstating FaceTime post-haste; It was reportedly advertised on Middle Eastern versions of Apple’s iPhone website until around September 20th, when all references to FaceTime were removed. TUAW reports that some UAE denizens have actually tested FaceTime on phones bought abroad and found it working just fine, but that the functionality disappears after installing the local version of the iOS 4.1 update.
RIM’s Mike Lazaridis famously warned that countries threatening to ban the BlackBerry might thumb their nose at other forms of internet transmission too, but if’s far too early to tell if Apple was pressured into removing FaceTime or chose to for another reason entirely. It’s worth noting that both the UAE and Egypt (also missing FaceTime website ads) have banned certain VoIP services in the past.
Well, it’s about time. Touted back in March as one of the pillar apps to benefit from the new multitasking API, Skype has finally been updated to iOS 4 compatibility. We’re seeing crisper, more retina display-friendly graphics and, more importantly, background VoIP (not for iPhone 3G, naturally). A notification window will pop up when you’re called or messaged, and you can use other apps while on the line chatting to international friends at reduced rates. Even on the lock screen, if you receive a call, sliding to unlock will take you immediately into the call. Video chat still isn’t here — a darn shame given the lack of other options now — but now you’ve got even more of a reason to rack up those rollover minutes on AT&T’s voice plan. Download away!
Update: Remember when Skype was talking about charging extra for calls over 3G starting this month? Straight from the horse’s mouth: “we no longer have plans to charge a supplement to make calls over 3G.”
Plenty of other VoIP apps have managed to work in this functionality since Apple / AT&T started allowing it last year, but the official Skype app has been a notable holdout. Now, two months after Skype started doing 3G calls on Android with Verizon, there’s a 2.0 version of the app for iPhone that brings voice calls over 3G at last. Mobile iPhone calls are free until August, after which you’ll need a “mobile subscription.” We’re testing out the app as we write this and it seems to work about as well any other 3G VoIP app we’ve tried: passable, not revolutionary.
The new version
1.3.1 of the app brings iPad compatibility to the popular VoIP service besides incorporating several bug fixes and improvements to the app’s stability.
However, Skype’s iPhone application
is yet to bring the much requested VoIP over 3G service to the iPhone.
As our readers may recall, AT&T had lifted its restrictions on apps consuming extensive 3G bandwidth late last year and ever since a flurry of VoIP services including Fring, TruPhone and iCall have updated their iPhone to work over 3G.
It is not entirely clear why it is taking Skype such a long time to introduce this feature to iPhone users. While the head of the iPhone team at Skype, David Ponsford had insisted in an interview earlier this year that the VoIP over 3G feature shall be released “real soon”, there are speculations that Skype has put their plans to enable their iPhone app to work over 3G on hold due to its partnership with Verizon, which is suspected to be exclusive. As we had reported earlier, this could be Verizon’s attempt to deprive iPhone users of a much-requested feature and thereby gain a competitive edge against AT&T.
Skype is yet to make any official statement in this regard. However, we suspect that this delay could be due to multiple factors. Considering that Skype has a lot at stake in offering VoIP over 3G services to the iPhone users, an exclusive agreement with Verizon should not impact the launch of the feature especially outside United States.
What do you think is the reason behind the delay? Or you don’t care as you are using jailbreak iPhone app like VoIPOver3G to make VoIP calls over 3G or you’ve simply started using a different VoIP iPhone app, which works over 3G. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
[via Skype iTunes Link]
Apple may have focused all its laser-beam attention on the iPad at Wednesday’s press event, but that wasn’t the computing giant’s only announcement. Effective immediately, Apple has given up blocking voice-over-IP (VoIP) calls over 3G data networks on the iPhone, and has changed the SDK to reflect the allowance. Of course, your carrier has to also comply for VoIP calls to work over 3G in addition to Wi-Fi. Luckily for us, AT&T in the U.S. is already on board.
We tested Fring’s one-way video calls over 3G.
(Credit: Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET)
The iCall app was one of the first to announce the 3G compatibility news to its VoIP users. Fring, a voice and chat app that supports Skype, SIP, and video calls, soon followed. We wanted to see just how reliable Fring’s VoIP video calling was in the absence of Wi-Fi, so we turned off the wireless and made a few calls.
Fring dials out from a dial pad using cellular, SIP, or Skype, and can also make video calls with a compatible service. We tested Skype video calls within California and from the CNET offices, first with 3G and then with Wi-Fi. We also tested with and without headphones.
Video calls were one-way–we could see our callers through their Webcams, but they couldn’t see us. Despite having full bars of AT&T reception, our callers clearly heard only one out of every 5 or 6 words with the headphones plugged in, but we could hear them. We sounded clearer with the headphones out, but couldn’t hear as well on our end. Wi-Fi made the voice transaction clearer all around and caused fewer crashes and stalls.
Stability was an issue over both Wi-Fi and 3G. We had to restart Fring multiple times throughout the course of a call. Of course, the Skype service itself isn’t without delays and freezes when you use it on a home computer supported by fast, reliable Internet, and we haven’t had a chance to extensively test all Fring scenarios with Wi-Fi and 3G. Your experience may differ based on your own surroundings and the technology level on the other end of the line. One thing that’s clear is that Fring’s service indeed makes calls over 3G–albeit inconsistently, in our experience–in addition to calls over Wi-Fi. Improving stability and performance are the next steps for Fring, Skype, and other VoIP players taking advantage of iPhone’s newly relaxed regulations.