Video calling, Facetime and all that jazz.

Ever since FaceTime was announced last year as a ‘new’ feature for the iPhone 4/iOS4, I’ve wondered why we keep coming back to video calling?

Let’s be honest, video calling isn’t all that new. It’s been around in various forms, believe it or not, for nearly 80 years. So Apple proudly boasting about FaceTime being innovative yada yada yada is really a load of tosh; my great-grandmother, the inimitable Nanny Biscuits, has been around longer than video calling.

My first dalliance with the technology was back in 2005 when I got my Sony Ericsson k800i handset. At the time, the technology in mobiles was VERY new and I was very much in the minority. As I recall didn’t get much chance to test it until late 2006/2007 and even then, just four years ago, I wasn’t all that impressed. It was blocky, it was done over 3G/UMTS networks and it really just wasn’t very good unless your phone was specifically built for it. To be honest, I thought the idea of video calling on mobiles had largely been abandoned by the end of 2007!

Fast forward three years and Apple, in yet another attempt to lay claim to something they didn’t invent, introduce FaceTime to the iPhone 4 as a ‘new’ technology. It might be new – to iPhones – but it only works with iPhones so is useless to anyone who is able to think outside the box and get a real smartphone.

Skype Mobile is bringing video calling to Android-based mobiles in a big way, as is Android 2.3.4 which brings standard video calling. I’ve no intention of making a video call using my data plan but I have experimented with Skype-to-Skype video calling using a webcam and the front-facing camera of the fabulous Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo.

It was a good experience, much better than in 2007. It’s on a par with using Skype on a computer, the connection was nice and steady, good picture, good sound. Much better, in fact, than the new video messaging service from Facebook…room for improvement there for sure..!

Time will tell whether video-calling really takes off again, but I think with the prevalence of WiFi in so many homes these days, we could see more people having face to face conversations and I reckon a significant portion of these will be done through a mobile phone.

As a further note, the upcoming Xperia Ray and the Xperia Pro handsets both feature a front-facing camera and will definitely be worth a purchase to take advantage of the ability to video call with Skype from anywhere on the planet with a decent WiFi connection. These handsets are expected to launch in September/October.

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