New Yahoo app to challenge Apple FaceTime on iPhone
Apple has based a great deal of its iPhone 4 marketing blitz around its so-called FaceTime video calling technology.
But Yahoo is about to challenge Apple for the mobile video calling crown, with plans to brings video chat to iPhones and Android-based phones via its popular Yahoo Messenger instant messaging service.
During a briefing with Reuters on Thursday, David Katz, Yahoo’s VP of Mobile for the Americas region, let it slip that the company will soon be offering mobile app versions of Yahoo Messenger with built-in video calling capabilities.
Earlier this week, T-Mobile announced that its new 4G myTouch smartphone would come with a built-in Yahoo app for video calling. But the availability of standalone video chat apps for a broader set of camera-equipped smartphones could position Yahoo to play a much bigger role in the mobile market.
The free app, will be available for both iPhone and Android phones and will allow smartphone users to not only conduct video calls with each other, but with anyone that currently uses Yahoo Messenger for video calls on their PCs, Katz said (Messenger has 81 million users worldwide, according to Yahoo).
And unlike FaceTime, Yahoo’s mobile Messenger video calling app will work not only over a WiFi connection, but over a carrier’s standard wireless network.
Video calling on the iPhone has proven to be a delicate matter. Skype inexplicably does not offer a video calling capability on its iPhone app, even though video calls are one of its most popular features among people who use Skype on their PCs.
And some people have speculated that Apple’s policy of restricting FaceTime use to WiFi-only is intended to prevent a flood of bandwidth-heavy video traffic from overwhelming AT&T’s already strained wireless network.
So it should be interesting to see how Apple reacts to a third-party app that effectively circumvents the company’s own approach to video calling.
A Yahoo spokesperson, reached after the briefing, said he believed that the iPhone app has already been approved by Apple (See update) and that it would be would be available “soon.”
Apple did not return a request for comment. (See update).
UPDATE: It’s worth noting that there are a couple of iPhone apps that allow video calling over both WiFi and wireless networks — Fring and Tango. Of course, neither of these apps have the level of mass-market brand recognition of Yahoo, and their impact on a wireless network is probably not in the same league.
UPDATE 2: A Yahoo spokesperson clarified that the iPhone app has not yet been approved.
UPDATE 3: Apple said in a statement: “We do allow apps on the App Store that support video calling on WiFi and 3G networks.”