Thanks to the fine folks at Oovoo (especially CEO Philippe Schwartz) who went out of their way last week to give us an in-person demo of the new mobile version of the company’s video chat application, which launched today for the Samsung Epic 4G and the HTC EVO 4G phones from Sprint. C/Net has a good recap of the program and some of the details of how it works. While Oovoo was nice enough to send us a demo phone pre-loaded with the app, we’ve been busy helping people play Santa so more thorough testing will have to wait.
While the proof of the application’s performance will be in the pudding — meaning how quickly it catches on in a world rapidly filling with competitive offerings — in my hands-on demo last week I did notice a telling feature that Oovoo was prescient enough to code into their app: An on-screen warning that alerts phone users if a slow network connection is hampering the video call. Since we were testing the app live in an area that kinda-sorta has 4G service and has spotty Wi-Fi, it was interesting that the best signal came from Sprint’s 3G network — and that the phone could tell us that fact.
The guess from our observation point here at Sidecut Reports is that accurate measurements of broadband speeds and capacity — and other attributes, like network latency — are going to rapidly move from the world of geek-speak to everyday conversation as mobile users expect more from the wireless networks they will depend more upon. Applications like Oovoo’s that help users understand what’s going on behind the scenes will go a long way toward easing frustration that will inevitably occur when connections are lost, interrupted or not even able to begin.
If you are waiting for your wireless carrier to provide such information, you may be on hold for quite some time. Among the major network providers, only Clearwire has seen fit to actually provide coverage maps with real-world data, like tower locations, to help consumers make accurate purchase choices. Verizon’s promise of “street level” maps for its nascent Long Term Evolution (LTE) 4G service is somewhat empty, since all it shows is varying degrees of “red” coverage in any live Verizon market, without any tower-location detail. And AT&T somehow sees fit to claim it is still the “nation’s fastest” mobile network on billboards in the Bay area, where two if not three other network providers are already demonstrably offering much faster services.
So — for the prospective mobile video chat customer, it’s buyer beware.
Our friend Evan Kaplan, the CEO of iPass, touched on some of the growing mobile workforce learning-curve in his talk at the GigaOM Net:Work conference last week, especially when Kaplan noted that mobile users are becoming more sophisticated, more demanding and more likely to consider mobile connectivity the norm and not an exception. Applications like Oovoo’s that not only exploit the ability to communicate while mobile but also provide in-depth information on network status are the kinds likely to win acceptance among the leading-edge user base, simply because the apps themselves are smart enough to help. That’s not enough, but it’s a good start.