New version of Fring for Apple iOS 4 allows 3G video calls on iPhone 4 free of the FaceTime Wi-Fi limitation.
Fring is a free application available on a variety of mobile platforms such as Apple iOS, Android, Symbian and Windows Mobile. The software is an attempt to consolidate the various messaging systems into one interface in order to deliver peer-to-peer VOIP as well as video calling.
Fring supports a variety of popular networks such as MSN, Google's GTalk, Yahoo, ICQ, AIM, Facebook and Twitter. It will also place calls through Skype or the SIP standard for VOIP through any SIP provider. Not all features are available on all versions but the modern smartphone versions of Fring now support video calling.
The video calling is compatible with Skype's video calling standard which means rather than the iPhone 4-only FaceTime, Fring has the capability to deliver video calls between iPhones running iOS 4, Android handsets and even desktop PCs. Unlike FaceTime, Fring doesn't require a Wi-Fi connect although of course video calling is going to be dependent on having a decent 3G connection.
The Telaviv-based company says that video calling uses about 1MB a minute which clocks up at about 17k/s. That's just about deliverable over the slowest "EDGE" connection but we wouldn't bet on it being smooth. So long as a genuine 3G connection is to be had, however, there should be more than enough bandwidth.
Fring on Android handsets is likely to be less useful for video calling due to the lack of a forward facing camera on most modern models. However the brand new HTC Evo and the Samsung Galaxy handsets have forward facing cameras. Fring is still a very useful application for voice VOIP and integrated text-chat features.
There have been reports of varying success using the Fring video calling. With the attention resurrected for video calling, we wouldn't be surprised to see forward facing cameras make a big come back on future smart phones.
Apple's proprietary FaceTime was limited to Wi-Fi due to "negotiations" between Apple and network carriers. When video calling first appeared on handsets several years ago it was accompanied by eyeball gouging prices from the mobile networks.
Existing standards for video calling already exist and being tightly coupled with quality-of-service features with mobile carriers, they do have tackled some of the thorny issues of video performance already.
However truly cross-platform interoperability, including desktop PC, looks set to play a roll in video calling getting off the ground this time. Not the least being free from exorbitant network pricing.
Fring can be downloaded for mobile handsets here.