Live video iChat on the iPhone may be something we would expect from Apple, but is the timing and technology ripe for this functionality to come out this summer? Some reports are reading into AT&T network upgrades to 7.2 Mbps as a sign that they are bracing for more bandwidth demands from their iPhone subscriber base, and that one of those demands could be live video chat.
The longer AT&T can deliver what Apple needs for its hardware, the longer the company stands to profit from an exclusive arrangement to offer the iPhone on its network. Other leaks and data that point in the direction of a front facing camera on the next generation iPhone have also surfaced.
The new "4G" black bezel design moves the speaker up much closer to the top edge of the device. This leaves much more space between the display screen and the speaker for sensors or a front-facing camera on the new model.
Past rumors from China had wholesale suppliers delivering two different resolution cameras to Apple. The two camera models could be destined for different devices (such as the rumored iPod Nano camera and the iPhone). The alternative is much more interesting. Two cameras in one iPhone 3.0 facing in two directions.Realistically, the bandwidth requirements of millions of iChat video users, along with iTunes video renters and purchasers, make this prospect unlikely until the wide release of faster LTE wireless network technology in 2011.
It is widely known that the iPhone 3.0 will feature the 802.11N Broadcom BCM4329 Wi-Fi chip, making possible wireless downloads of up to four times the speed of 802.11G. To save bandwidth for carriers, it's likely that Apple will restrict iTunes video downloading to iPhones that are connected via Wi-FI.
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Could it be that video iChat on the iPhone would also be a restricted Wi-Fi only application? Although the capability would be impressive, without a serious battery upgrade video chatting would even further tax the built in power limitations.
Also curious that developers using iPhone OS 3.0 beta 5 have not uncovered any hidden video communication code or apps, whereas they have uncovered video editing and sending capabilities. Of course this doesn't exclude the possibility that 3rd party developers could distribute such a product on the AppStore.
It's a matter of time until videoconferencing on mobile devices is ubiquitous. Until we hear an official announcement from Apple we'll keep our fingers crossed, but we won't hold our breath.