AT&T: Google Hangouts video chat support coming later this year

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AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) pledged to offer cellular network support for preloaded video chat applications like Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) new Hangouts by the end of 2013.

Hangouts--available for Google's Android, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS and the Web--integrates text, photo and video interactions into one service. Video chat functionality is disabled on AT&T Android devices connected to the operator's cellular network, although the feature is accessible over Wi-Fi connections. iOS users can send and receive video calls over the AT&T cellular network as well: "All AT&T Mobility customers can use any video chat app over cellular that is not pre-loaded on their device, but which they download from the Internet," the operator explained last week.

AT&T is now clarifying its position, indicating it will lift restrictions on preloaded apps. "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 (NASDAQ:BBRY) have chosen to enable this for their pre-loaded video chat apps," the carrier said in a statement Monday. "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."

An AT&T spokesperson told The Verge that the company has been slowly phasing in video calling capabilities across its network, noting that because pre-loaded apps generate greater usage than downloaded counterparts, the carrier has chosen to take a "deliberate" approach to supporting the former.

Google unveiled Hangouts last week during its annual I/O developer conference. The app supports group video conversations "at no charge," and users can initiate a video conversation with the tap of a button. According to Google Senior Vice President of Social Vic Gundotra, Hangouts "is a list of conversations, not contacts," adding that interactions can last years and can span across multiple devices. "The conversation feels alive," he said. "It really feels like you're in the same room together."

Hangouts challenges Apple's FaceTime video chat app as well as its cross-platform iMessage service. Hangouts also gives Google a leg up on BlackBerry, which last week pledged to expand Messenger to additional platforms by rolling out native BBM apps for Android and iOS this summer.

For more:
- read this Verge article

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