It wasn't exactly a surprise when Apple demoed video chatting that uses the front-facing camera during the iPhone 4 announcement on June 7.
However, many expected Apple to introduce a Skype-made solution akin to Skype's iPhone app instead of video chat service crafted in-house. The result of Apple's mobile video chatting efforts is FaceTime, which can be roughly considered an iPhone 4 take on the video calling portion of iChat for Mac.
Immediately after the FaceTime demo, we wondered what FaceTime's existence would portend for Skype and editorialized on why FaceTime could flop.
With several iPhone 4s in hand, we did the only responsible thing we could, with a side-by-side video chat comparison with Fring, FaceTime's most notable potential rival on iPhone 4. Skype's iPhone app doesn't currently support video chatting, so it's out of the running. Fring, though, will broadcast a contact's Web cam over Wi-Fi and 3G on services--like Skype--that support video calling.
The results were clear. FaceTime is the hands-down winner in terms of video quality, ease-of-use, and video chatting features.
FaceTime for iPhone 4 displays high-quality video of the caller (top right window,) though much grainier footage of our caller's camera. The three on-screen buttons make it easy to mute or end a call, and switch between the front-facing camera and standard back-of-camera view for the feed we produced. FaceTime video calls function in both portrait and landscape modes.
The fact that FaceTime is integrated into the address book also lends it an advantage over third-party apps, mostly because there are two ways to launch it immediately, and directly from the iPhone 4's contact list. Third-party apps, of course, require you to launch the program first, log in, and then seek out whomever is online.
At this stage, Fring's iPhone app just can't compete on the iPhone 4. Its VoIP video calling works fine, but calls are one-way, for a start. Despite the fact that Fring works on the iPhone 4, the software hasn't yet been updated to take advantage of the phone's front-facing camera. iPhone owners can view others' Web cameras in a Fring call, but can't yet broadcast their own. … Read more