When Google Hangouts first launched, we noted that AT&T Android customers couldn't use its video chat capabilities on a cellular network. A statement from AT&T implied that video chat could be used on downloaded apps (like the iOS Hangouts app), but that Google would need to work with AT&T to enable it for pre-loaded apps, which Hangouts for Android technically is. Now, AT&T has given another statement, suggesting that we could see an across-the-board approval of video chat apps by the end of the year.
For video chat apps that come pre-loaded on devices, we currently give all OS and device makers the ability for those apps to work over cellular for our customers who are on Mobile Share or Tiered plans. Apple, Samsung and BlackBerry have chosen to enable this for their pre-loaded video chat apps. And by mid-June, we’ll have enabled those apps over cellular for our unlimited plan customers who have LTE devices from those three manufacturers.
Throughout the second half of this year, we plan to enable pre-loaded video chat apps over cellular for all our customers, regardless of data plan or device; that work is expected to be complete by year end.
Today, all of our customers can use any mobile video chat app that they download from the Internet, such as Skype.
Video chat has been a hot-button issue for AT&T, which long blocked iOS users from making FaceTime calls over its network. Last year, that changed, with customers on non-unlimited plans allowed to access it. Since then, AT&T has decided that even people on unlimited plans will soon be able to access video chat from Apple, Samsung, or BlackBerry, as long as they're on an LTE phone. According to an AT&T spokesperson, that's because it's been working on slowly phasing in video calling on its network. We're told that pre-loaded apps have higher usage than downloaded ones, and that because of this, AT&T decided to go with a "deliberate" approach for the former.
Now, that process appears to be nearly complete. It's not totally clear whether developers will still need to work with AT&T to enable pre-loaded apps, but the restrictions on them will be lifted, meaning that pretty much any video calling system will work across the board. By definition, that should include Hangouts, though we're still awaiting comment from Google on the matter.