Video Calling Headaches with Qik and Fring
One of the more advertised “features” of the T-Mobile myTouch 4G is video calling via the built-in Qik app. Qik is supposed to be better than Apple’s FaceTime because you can make and receive calls anywhere you’ve got a data connection — not just over Wi-Fi.
How does it work in practice? When I say “not that well”, that’s a compliment. How bad was it? Watch the video below.
I took the myTouch 4G connected over T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network, and the Sprint Samsung Epic 4G connected to Sprint’s network, and tried to make a video phone call — or, rather, a video chat.
Right off the bat you’ll notice that Qik doesn’t integrate with your default Contacts app, so you can’t go to Contacts, find the person that you want to contact, and be given the option to “video call” or “video chat” with them. Instead, if you want to make a video call, you have to launch Qik, tell it you want to make a video call (as opposed to one of the other three things the app does), then find someone to call. True, it reads your existing contacts, but for some reason it doesn’t filter them by people that you can video call… not on every version of Qik. The myTouch 4G does have this on their “special” version of Qik, but when I applied this filter, it said that no one could video chat, even the people that I knew could.
After another few hours I gave up trying to get either the myTouch 4G or the Epic 4G to see anyone to call. I finally resigned myself to just typing in the intended recipient’s Qik username, which finally let the call go through.
It rang, it connected, the video came through… but audio was only one way! ARGH! After another 30 minutes or so I finally figured out that Qik on the Epic 4G has a “talk” button similar to a walkie-talkie. If you’re not pressing that button, you’re not sending any audio. On the myTouch 4G, however, the same button is a “mute” button to toggle sending audio on and off. Strange.
Finally, I was able to make a call, and after figuring out the “walkie-talkie” button, I was able to hear the person on the other end of the call. The audio and video were decent, but not great. There was a substantial (a few full seconds or more) lag between the two, which made things a little awkward, and in testing the two of us spent a lot of time talking over one another and asking the other to repeat what they’d said several times.
We decided to try Fring. Fring looks unpolished and the UI looks unfinished and “sketchy”. True, that’s the way they want it to look, but it just looks unprofessional and amateur, where Qik (especially the T-Mobile version) looks clean and smooth.
Using Fring I was able to find the other person and make the call without any problems, but again, Fring doesn’t extend the built-in Contacts app with video calling capabilities, instead, you have to launch Fring and then find someone to call, which seems backwards and unintuitive.
Unfortunately, even though the myTouch 4G has a front-facing camera, Fring didn’t use it, so the person on the other end of the phone was only able to see the table-top until I turned the phone around and pointed the away-facing camera at myself, which kind of defeats the purpose of video calling.
I wanted so much for video calling to be simple, straight forward, and just work. Unfortunately neither of the two popular video chatting/calling apps available today worked the way that you’d expect them to. Fring will likely push an update that works with the myTouch 4G sooner or later. Qik, on the other hand seems to be digging a hole for itself with separate versions of its app differing from handset to handset, and just not working the way you’d expect it to.