Last week’s metamorphosis of Google Talk into the new Hangouts app brought with it an unwelcome blast from the past: users on AT&T in the States were discovering that the app was blocking their ability to conduct video calls over their cellular data connections. This assault on how you use the wireless connection you pay for churned up a whole lot of memories about Apple and FaceTime, and all the rubbish AT&T put iOS users through at the time. Even though AT&T ultimately backed down on many fronts in that case, it failed to yield in every regard, and users on unlimited data plans were still getting screwed. We were all ready for AT&T to get back into its role as the heavy-handed warden overseeing its precious network, but today we get some outright surprising news, with AT&T announcing plans to drastically reduce its meddling with video chat by the end of the year.
AT&T draws an arbitrary distinction between “pre-loaded” apps versus those you install yourself, and for the former on phones from Apple, Samsung and BlackBerry, video chat over cellular is already available on the carrier’s Mobile Share and Tiered plans. That list expands to include unlimited users on LTE next month – but not unlimited users on non-LTE hardware.
Luckily, even that will change in time, and by the end of 2013, AT&T plans “to enable pre-loaded video chat apps over cellular for all our customers, regardless of data plan or device.” That will cover apps like Hangouts, even without Google asking for AT&T’s blessing, and bring video chat to unlimited data users on older hardware, like the iPhone 4S.
We’ll have to wait and see if AT&T makes good on this pledge, and it’s a little silly how long it claims to need to implement the changes, but we’ll take good news when we can get it.
Source: The Verge