FaceTime users with the iPhone 4S rejoice. You won't have to upgrade to the LTE iPhone 5 in order to use the service with an AT&T tiered data plan. Over the next few months, the carrier is rolling out cellular FaceTime access to everyone with a compatible device, except for those with grandfathered unlimited data plans.
Previously, FaceTime over cellular was only available to iOS devices with LTE, including the iPhone 5, third and fourth generation iPads, and the iPad mini. AT&T explains they have completed testing on their networks to ensure that providing this added service will not adversely affect subscribers.
AT&T announced earlier this month that iOS 6 users with an LTE device and a "tiered data plan" would be allowed to use FaceTime over a cellular connection. While a step in the right direction, AT&T's new restrictions still left out those with grandfathered unlimited data plans and older devices. However, it looks like AT&T may have had a change of heart.
According to Cult of Mac and MacRumor forum users, grandfathered customers with unlimited data plans, and those with the iPhones 4S can now use FaceTime over a cellular connection. Cult of Mac reader Michael B. was one of the first to notice the change:
"I have AT&T grandfathered unlimited data. Rebooted my phone and now FaceTime is enabled. Woohoo! Looks like AT&T’s accountants figured out that they’ll make a bundle on overages with everyone making phone calls in High Def."
AT&T has decided to stop charging some of its customers for using FaceTime over a cellular connection. iOS 6 customers with an LTE device on any tiered data plan will be able to use the feature at no extra charge. This also includes deaf and hard of hearing customers who qualify for "special text and data-only packages".
AT&T felt it needed to limit the amount of FaceTime calls out of fear that its network was not ready to handle the surge of video calls. The company added it will "also continue to offer FaceTime over Cellular to customers with any AT&T Mobile Share plan, as well as FaceTime over Wi-Fi, which has always been available for all customers".
FaceTime calling will get more convenient when iOS 6 is released this fall, but only for those with A5 devices. More details in the fine print have revealed that Apple plans to limit cellular data FaceTime calling to the iPhone 4S and new iPad. Older models including the iPhone 4 and iPad 2 are left out of the fun.
This means that older iPhone owners, already lacking Siri, must remain connected to a Wi-Fi network to make or receive a FaceTime video call. The news comes as no big surprise, as Apple typically limits some iOS updates to newer devices, especially when hardware limitations are an issue. Already news has surfaced that the new Maps application will limit turn-by-turn navigation to the iPhone 4S as well.
Developers playing with iOS 5 beta 3 have discovered that it features AirPlay mirroring. AirPlay allows you to mirror your FaceTime video chats to a larger screen. If AirPlay mirroring makes it to the final version of iOS 5, your iPhone or iPad could change business conferences, future Twilight fan club meetings, or long distance family chats. No more trying to huddle around your iPad to wave at Grandma.
The initial images of AirPlay from iOS 5 aren't that impressive (see above), but it seems like a small price to pay for the possible benefits. However, AirPlay may get a boost from the next generation iPhone or iPad, depending of what kind of camera they have.
The next-generation iPhone hardware is reportedly in its "final testing stage," and looks to be on schedule for a fall launch, However, an Apple source told 9to5Mac that a deal has yet to be reached for 3G FaceTime over Verizon's network, and that the new iPhone may not have an 8-megapixel camera like we previously reported.
Currently FaceTime is limited over a WiFi connection, or jailbroken phones that trick the device into thinking it's using a WiFi network. Even though iOS 5 supports 3G FaceTime and over-the-air updates, Verizon is still working out kinks and may be delayed in delivering both.
Now iPhone owners have another way to join Android users in a video chat. Qik Video Connect Plus has been released on iTunes for $2.99. A free version is in the works and is currently being reviewed by Apple. For those who are not familiar with Qik, the app offers an alternative to FaceTime and has been pre-installed on many Android devices.
Besides real-time video calling, Qik offers a variety of other features. Video mail messages can be sent to friends, and live video can be broadcast on the web for your contacts to watch live. The plus version of Qik includes real-time video effects, syncing with the camera roll and support for HD video.
Skype has released version 3.0 of its iOS application with full support for 3G video calling to other Skype members. This app will give FaceTime a run for its money, as Apple's video conferencing solution is currently limited to Wi-Fi only.
The Skype app of course supports audio calling for iPhones lacking a front facing camera and Skype text chat. Skype 3.0 is available now on iTunes for free and works on iPhones running iOS version 3.0 and later.
Apple has launched FaceTime video calling with every iPhone 4. All that's required is a Wi-Fi connection and a person on the other end of the line running the same setup. There are many things you can do to get the most out of your FaceTime calling experience.
First of all, to test your setup and get some personalized instruction, you can call an Apple representative using FaceTime at 1-888-FACETIME. Make sure you're connected to Wi-Fi before you dial. When you're ready to video chat with your friends and family, check out this list of tips:
Watch out Apple, Fring has FaceTime in its sights and has launched a new version compatible with iOS 4. What this means for owners of the latest iPhone is they are no longer restricted to Wi-Fi only video chatting. Not only does Fring enable 3G video chat, the company is offering their software for multiple smartphone platforms.
Unlike FaceTime, which only allows video chat between two people who both own the iPhone 4, Fring makes it possible to video chat with anyone running the software and with those running Skype. Currently Fring is available on Android and Symbian phones as well as iOS 4.