Color, the live video-broadcasting app for Android and iOS that made waves last year for raising over 40 million dollars in funding, is betting big on Verizon Wireless. "The relationship with Verizon represents our entire vision for the future," founder Bill Nguyen said in a blog post today. The first part of that vision is doubling the frame rate for Color on all devices and adding audio streaming, a feature which only works on Verizon. Nguyen hopes to develop more exclusive Verizon features that can take advantage of the provider's "pervasive" 4G LTE network. "We're not going to build for the lowest common denominator anymore," Nguyen told me last week.
It's a "multi-year deal" Nguyen stated, hinting that many new Android devices coming to Verizon will come with Color pre-loaded. In working with Verizon, Nguyen says he'll be able to get 20 times the video quality while only using four times the bandwidth. The company has recently staffed up from 30 to 60 in order to work on the company's new plan for the future. Verizon in return may use Color to demonstrate the speed of its network, while Color will use Verizon in its marketing materials. Color on Verizon devices also includes the "Verizon 4G LTE edition" stamp on its splash screen, though the new features work on Verizon's 3G network as well.
When I spoke with Nguyen last week, he really didn't talk much about his app's current iteration. He spoke more about RED cameras and the incredible resolutions they can achieve. He wants every smartphone to shoot RED-quality HD video, and is convinced that some form of HD video will be streamed live from your smartphone sometime soon. "Six months!" Nguyen blurted out as he grinned from ear to ear. "Bill's optimistic," Color business development/marketing head John Kuch said. Kuch has been working with Nguyen since the Lala days; it's evident that this isn't the first time he's had to babysit an excitable youngster.
"We're not going to build for the lowest common denominator anymore."
So why did Color wait this long to include audio? "We settled for low quality video and left out audio so we could broadcast live," Nguyen said. And that's what still makes Color different, though the idea hasn't caught on yet with many people. What makes Color different from a one-way video call is the fact that anyone you're friends with on Facebook can be communicated with. You don't need a phone number, and you can pick people to share with using only their names.
While the ability to broadcast video live idea is powerful, there's a hitch (at least for now, Nguyen said). You'll have to hope others start watching soon after you begin broadcasting, since you can only shoot 30-second clips using Color. And unlike with a ringing phone, the content begins before people have even picked up. On the broadcaster's side, they have to choose between recording video and broadcasting video, since broadcasting is clearly lower fidelity at this point, while your video does get saved.
But ultimately, people won't have to make that choice, Nguyen said. You'll be able to record and stream video in such high quality that nobody will even take photos anymore on mobile devices. People will shoot videos, then grab frames they like as photos. During our chat, Nguyen repeatedly called Color "the visual Twitter," a place where you know everything is live and in real time — except Color doesn't work with Twitter. Integration with Twitter is in the pipeline, Nguyen said, but for now, the app is still Color for Facebook.
"We wanted to plant our flag into the future," Nguyen, the self-proclaimed "Don Quixote of startups" said. "We prepared ourselves for a long wait as smartphone and networks evolved." While Color isn't there yet, it's certainly closer than any other company we've heard of.