iPhone gets 3G video call features via Fring, poorly

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
A new update to the free Fring app brings the potential of 3G video calls to all iPhone users. It also enables video calls to desktop Skype users as well as other Nokia and Android smartphone users who are also using Fring. Unfortunately, it doesn't work very well yet.



Apple's new FaceTime video calling feature was widely criticized for initially only working over WiFi and on iPhone 4. However, Apple's new video calling feature works very well: it delivers a high quality, full screen picture, enables use of the phone's rear camera, and makes setting up a new call easy.



Enter Fring, a free download from the iTunes App Store, which has updated its existing multiple-protocol VoIP and IM features to now support two-way video calls from any iPhone model running iOS 4, ostensibly over either WiFi or mobile 3G. Fring (along with Qik) is the same third party app that powers video calls on the Android-based HTC EVO 4G, Sprint's flagship smartphone.



The Fring app (I tested version 3.2.0.5) supports video calls with accounts both on its own VoIP/video calling network and Skype. After you install the app, you can create a new account rather painlessly and immediately begin connecting to other users by their account name. The problem with Fring is that, while it promises to work virtually anywhere and with a far wider array of clients, its video quality and presentation are rather poor even with a WiFi connection.



Unlike FaceTime, Fring ignores the rear camera on iPhone 4, making it more difficult to show your caller a subject. Video calls can quickly get tedious and leave you feeling self conscious, so Fring's lack support for the "show and tell" camera on the back is a pretty severe feature omission. Because few other Android phones support a front facing camera, it's not obvious how likely it is for Fring to add support for dual camera operation in the future. But that's really the least of Fring's disappointing problems.







Low quality overall



Fring's video call quality is also greatly lacking, as it uses less sophisticated video compression. While I was fully able to quickly initiate FaceTime calls with a friend in Prague and maintain high quality video chats for an extended period of time, attempts to initiate a video call with the same person via Fring failed repeatedly under identical circumstances.



The momentary and fleeting video call connections under Fring were marred by blocky video and no audio at all. I was also unable to start an audio-only chat, although text chat did work.



Even if Fring could maintain a video call, its half-sized presentation of the remote caller is a lot less involving that FaceTime's full screen picture (with presents a floating inset showing you your own picture). Fring video and audio call tests we attempted over 3G failed completely.



The overall experience of Fring feels unfinished and a bit haphazard aesthetically, even outside of its iffy new video calling features. Hopefully, Fring's developer will be able to optimize the app to connect and function better, as allowing iPhone users to connect via video chat over 3G is a welcome feature even if the picture quality ultimately isn't very good.



Reports from users testing Fring on the EVO and other Android phones don't hold out lots of hope however. Even with a fast WiFi connection, PC Mag reported video quality as being "unimpressive," adding, "graphic artifacts showed up often and audio was usually out of sync," and repeating, "overall, video calls on Fring for Android are an unimpressive experience so far."



Calling desktop users



Fring seems to work best when placing calls between a desktop PC and a smartphone, something Apple currently doesn't support at all with FaceTime. The friend I called had performed some additional testing with desktop Skype clients, which reportedly worked better but still delivered poor video quality, even over WiFi.



I tried to test calls to a Skype client, but the Fring app oddly failed to present the icon for configuring a Skype account in its add-ons section. I deleted and reinstalled the app, when then refused to let me login using my existing password, and refused to let me create a new account. Overall, the entire Fring experience currently seems too buggy to be worth the bother of trying.



Until Fring gets a functional update, FaceTime users are limited to video chats only with other iPhone 4 users and only over WiFi. While Apple's technology is tightly limited, at least it works. Another option may come from Skype, which has expressed interest in supporting video calling on the new iPhone 4, but has not yet released any details on when that can be expected.



It's also rumored that Apple will add FaceTime and camera support to iPod touch 4 this Fall, and it's expected that the desktop iChat AV client for Macs will gain support for making calls with mobile FaceTime users. And of course, Apple has promised to publish the FaceTime specification as an open portfolio of protocols that any manufacturer can implement on their devices. Until then, high quality mobile video chats are limited to iPhone 4 users in the proximity of a WiFi hotspot.
«13

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 41
    dcj001dcj001 Posts: 301member
    But it looks like, as of yesterday, Fring has reduced support to Skype, on a temporary basis:



  • Reply 2 of 41
    joe hsjoe hs Posts: 488member
    Dear appleinsider,

    what took so long, eh? I knew this days ago.
  • Reply 3 of 41
    I am stumped. The article says it supports any iOS4 iPhone, but then says "front facing camera only." This would limit it to the iPhone 4 only, wouldn't it? I don't understand or see the point of this, if you already have an iPhone 4, as FaceTime would work better. Can someone clear this up?
  • Reply 4 of 41
    joe hsjoe hs Posts: 488member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nitewing98 View Post


    I am stumped. The article says it supports any iOS4 iPhone, but then says "front facing camera only." This would limit it to the iPhone 4 only, wouldn't it? I don't understand or see the point of this, if you already have an iPhone 4, as FaceTime would work better. Can someone clear this up?



    Fring can call other skype and fring users. FaceTime cannot.
  • Reply 5 of 41
    libertyforalllibertyforall Posts: 1,297member
    What crap reporting. Fring video works on iOS 3.1.x and works on the back facing camera on 3GS...
  • Reply 6 of 41
    libertyforalllibertyforall Posts: 1,297member
    Skype support disappeared from Fring the other day -- dunno why...
  • Reply 7 of 41
    foadfoad Posts: 697member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by libertyforall View Post


    Skype support disappeared from Fring the other day -- dunno why...



    They are limiting Skype users right now due to the huge spike in their traffic. Their servers were struggling to keep up with the demand.



    Hopefully they are upgrading their servers to compensate for their increased demand.
  • Reply 8 of 41
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,788member
    This is why Apple only supports FaceTime over Wi-Fi. 3G isn't fast enough to sustain a quality connection. True 4G, with pure packet switching and IPv6 addressing, will easily be able to, but only after it's fully tested and rolled out to enough areas that it becomes pervasive. And that won't happen until 2012. The final spec hasn't even been chosen yet.



    And, as an aside, I think that's why Apple decided to suffer with AT&T for five years. Because that five year period ends in 2012. In theory, if they ride out their rocky partnership with AT&T, Apple wouldn't ever need to build a separate CDMA iPhone for Verizon or to add CDMA to their current iPhone for Verizon. All the cell providers, at least in the US, will be moving to a single 4G standard. And that will allow Apple to build just one single 4G iPhone. Especially since the 4G standard will be an international one, and Apple can ship that single iPhone model worldwide.



    And, even further aside, AT&T must be thinking "If we can just rope-a-dope all the hate for two more years, we won't need to spend any money building out our old 3G network." If you look at it from that perspective, all the foot dragging and data plan bait-and-switching makes sense.
  • Reply 9 of 41
    cycomikocycomiko Posts: 716member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SockRolid View Post


    This is why Apple only supports FaceTime over Wi-Fi. 3G isn't fast enough to sustain a quality connection.



    Fring is lower quality than facetime on wifi or 3g



    the advantage was that you could access other systems, like skype to a Mac



    but then they removed that access because their servers were being crushed, even with awful compression





    Most likely this is why skype is taking so long to get their ios4 app out, they may be adding video calling. Which makes the front camera useful.
  • Reply 10 of 41
    cubertcubert Posts: 728member
    I still think Apple is going to release a new version of the iPad - with a front-facing camera for FaceTime - this fall in time for Christmas. Otherwise, you cannot explain Steve Jobs claim of "10's of millions of FaceTime devices by 2011" during the recent keynote. Apple won't sell 10's of millions iPhones and a yet unreleased iPod before the end of this year.



    My 3 cents (I feel generous today).
  • Reply 11 of 41
    hill60hill60 Posts: 6,992member
    Demand from what?



    After putting up with weeks of whining, I thought that iPhone 4's were incapable of using data at such a rate, with their "faulty design" and everything.



    /sarcasm.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by foad View Post


    They are limiting Skype users right now due to the huge spike in their traffic. Their servers were struggling to keep up with the demand.



    Hopefully they are upgrading their servers to compensate for their increased demand.



  • Reply 12 of 41
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SockRolid View Post


    This is why Apple only supports FaceTime over Wi-Fi. 3G isn't fast enough to sustain a quality connection. True 4G, with pure packet switching and IPv6 addressing, will easily be able to, but only after it's fully tested and rolled out to enough areas that it becomes pervasive. And that won't happen until 2012. The final spec hasn't even been chosen yet.



    And, as an aside, I think that's why Apple decided to suffer with AT&T for five years. Because that five year period ends in 2012. In theory, if they ride out their rocky partnership with AT&T, Apple wouldn't ever need to build a separate CDMA iPhone for Verizon or to add CDMA to their current iPhone for Verizon. All the cell providers, at least in the US, will be moving to a single 4G standard. And that will allow Apple to build just one single 4G iPhone. Especially since the 4G standard will be an international one, and Apple can ship that single iPhone model worldwide.



    And, even further aside, AT&T must be thinking "If we can just rope-a-dope all the hate for two more years, we won't need to spend any money building out our old 3G network." If you look at it from that perspective, all the foot dragging and data plan bait-and-switching makes sense.



    Stop making sense .....



    We're being taken for a ride again.

    I've got a girlfriend i got a girlfriend that's better than that

    and nothing is better that this (iPhone 4)

    is it?
  • Reply 13 of 41
    sheffsheff Posts: 1,407member
    This is apple vs non apple approach. Apple does not make features available that would suck when used. Facetime works only on WiFi cause cell phone networks don't support it. You want to have a crapy video conversation that pauses, gets dropped or buffers all the time - use fring, but the whole point of a video chat is to see someone, not see a blob of pixels.



    Anyway I am happy that fring is letting us play with video calling over 3G, but by the time 4G is deployed and widely operational in major areas facetime will work over it as well.
  • Reply 14 of 41
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SockRolid View Post


    Will be crappy until the real 4G network is rolled out.



    I'm not sure about '4G' needing to be rolled out. I think a more consistent '3G' network with 14.4Mb/s HSDPA and 5.8Mb/s HSUPA should be able to handle it just fine IF they allow all the protocols (Jobs said they don't) for "realtime" A/V and IF they increase their trunk and tower capacity enough to support most users in most situations.



    They might take a few years, especially if we're talking about AT&T.



    Remember, 3GSM/UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA/HSPA/non-enhanced LTE all has an amazing ceiling we haven't come close to touching.
  • Reply 15 of 41
    nitronitro Posts: 91member
    I'm surprised that apple didn't have video call over 3G in the first place. I've been using video call over 3G in Australia for 4+ years.
  • Reply 16 of 41
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Joe hs View Post


    Fring can call other skype and fring users. FaceTime cannot.



    The article clearly says, "A new update to the free Fring app brings the potential of 3G video calls to all iPhone users." This isn't true if it limits to a front-facing camera. I am just saying that the facts (as reported) are confusing.
  • Reply 17 of 41
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nitro View Post


    I'm surprised that apple didn't have video call over 3G in the first place. I've been using video call over 3G in Australia for 4+ years.



    Um, well Apple might in Australia, might. They did say it would be working with carrier on allowing it.



    I test my ADSL vs 3G on iPhone and they alternate in beating each other. So the bandwidth is there, depending on users it might be able to handle FaceTime

    . (I'm in Australia, in Central Australia.)



    And if you have been using 3G video calling for 4 Years then you know how crap it is. It is as bad as Fring/Skype offer. Blocky choppy video and out of sync audio with pauses and drop outs.



    Mostly that is due to the protocol used not the network (in Australia).



    We have tethering here but only vodaphone offers visual voicemail, Telstra pretend it doesn't exist if u ask them.



    So who knows?
  • Reply 18 of 41
    foo2foo2 Posts: 1,077member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Cubert View Post


    I still think Apple is going to release a new version of the iPad - with a front-facing camera for FaceTime - this fall in time for Christmas.



    My guess is sooner: October, in time for iOS 4 on the iPad, with f.f. camera and 512 MB memory, too.
  • Reply 19 of 41
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nitro View Post


    I'm surprised that apple didn't have video call over 3G in the first place. I've been using video call over 3G in Australia for 4+ years.



    — What is the extent of it? Id est, does it work across all carriers, to PCs, is it an open standard or is it 3GPP's implementation?



    — How well does it work? Id est, is the convenience in setting up and connecting A/V chat, as well as te quality of the call with audio bitrate and compression, and video bitrate and compression, and latency affect the usablity of it even though it's technically possible to do?



    Even though I see it as a novelty feature I also see it as the beat potential to being video chat to all cellphones, regardless of the network type and handset vendor, and then potentially connect them to every other Internet capable device in the world.
  • Reply 20 of 41
    nitronitro Posts: 91member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    ? What is the extent of it? Id est, does it work across all carriers, to PCs, is it an open standard or is it 3GPP's implementation?



    ? How well does it work? Id est, is the convenience in setting up and connecting A/V chat, as well as te quality of the call with audio bitrate and compression, and video bitrate and compression, and latency affect the usablity of it even though it's technically possible to do?



    Even though I see it as a novelty feature I also see it as the beat potential to being video chat to all cellphones, regardless of the network type and handset vendor, and then potentially connect them to every other Internet capable device in the world.



    The point I'm making without "technical hullabaloo" is that Fring provides the average John Doe the capability to have a "video chat" over a network. One needs to understand that the mass shift to apple iPhone by folks is because Microsoft / Nokia /RIM / ect couldn't deliver easy smartphone features for average person social media to be precise.



    Let keep things in perspective from the average user end.
Sign In or Register to comment.