HTC Evo 4G Video Chat Face-Off: Fring vs. Qik

With all the hype around the iPhone 4’s new FaceTime two-way video chat feature, you might have forgotten that there’s already a smart phone on the market with a front-facing camera and two-way video chatting capabilities: the HTC Evo 4G. Mere days from official release and already obscure? Not so. We’re big fans of this phone and its features and we can’t wait to put FaceTime up against the two-way calling features available for the Evo 4G.

HTC teamed up with Qik for a special version of their video app that takes advantage of both the front and rear-facing cameras. But Qik isn’t the only app that can handle it. Fring connects with Skype and allows users to have voice and video chats using that service. So we decided to pit them up against each other and see which works best.

Get ready for Fring vs. Qik: The Two-Way Video Face-off!

Qik

Connecting with people on Qik was supposed to be easy. It pulled in the contacts from our phone, but wasn’t able to find the person we wanted to chat with. We finally surmised that if we typed their Qik username in the Search/Call box and hit the phone icon, we could call that person. Qik gave us no indication whether our friend (James Kendrick of JKOnTheRun) was online or available. After several attempts to call that went nowhere, he was finally able to initiate a session.

One of the interesting features of Qik is that it automatically saves any videos you record to the Qik service online. This includes two-way video chats, though it does an odd thing — the service only records your half of the chat, and only your half of the audio. This makes the saved videos a little pointless in our eyes, but it’s helpful in that we can show you the results of the chat (see below).

Another oddity we encountered was in how Qik dealt with the audio portion of a call. When we received the video call we were able to see and hear James but he could only see our video. We had to press the microphone icon in the corner of the screen before he could hear us. And while our mic was on, his audio turned off. Like a walkie-talkie. Figuring this out took us a few seconds on our first call and didn’t make much sense to us.

Audio and video quality was very good when both of us were on Wi-Fi. But we first attempted to call using 3G, which didn’t go well. Connections dropped easily and the video was choppy. 4G to 4G will probably work much better, but we’re not currently in a 4G city.

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If you want to see video of the conversation as recorded by Qik, check out the view from our phone here. Note how you can only hear our half of the conversation.

Update: The basic two-way chat feature is available for free to HTC Evo 4G owner. After July 15th, premium services such as high quality video, video mail, unlimited archiving and more for $4.99/month.

Fring

This app has been around for a while and works on phones other than the HTC Evo 4G. To test it, we tried two different types of Skype calls: phone to phone and phone to computer. Both worked out fairly well.

Fring can be trying to work with, especially over 3G. It doesn’t always notice right away when contacts come online. And the connection would sometimes drop for seemingly no reason. On Wi-Fi these issues weren’t as bad, but getting a solid connection with another phone took some doing.

As you’ll see in the video below (once again starring James Kendrick), the audio coming from his end wasn’t very clear, though he could hear us pretty well. The video quality isn’t as good as Qik when both phones are on Wi-Fi, either.

Unlike Qik, we didn’t need to do anything extra for both parties to hear each other on either end. There was some lag, as we’d expect, so we didn’t talk over each other much. But voice and video was simultaneous both ways.

[flq:f1b11c16e7514842a82ca90dab9096eb]

We also tried calling Skype on a computer from the Evo 4G to see if the quality was any better. We used a MacBook Pro to take advantage of QuickTime’s convenient screen recording feature. The video quality was enough to see the capture from the phone, but not to distinguish fine details (it wouldn’t work for lip reading) and the framerates were pretty low (around 8 – 10 fps). Though the helpful intern sitting in front of the MacBook Pro could hear me pretty well, I had a hard time hearing him. (As this happened with both calls, it could have been that the phone’s settings were slightly off.)

[flq:ef4bfb7b98b84048bdc4c16d930bf718]

Verdict

Both Qik and Fring didn’t do very well over 3G, though both have the ability to do two-way video over this data connection. On Wi-Fi we saw better video and audio quality with Qik, but had to contend with the annoying walkie-talkie aspect. Fring allowed for simultaneous two-way voice and audio, but the quality wasn’t great. Qik’s two-way video calling is only free until July 15th, Fring’s is and always has been free. Both services offer free two-way video chat. Fring allows you to video call any compatible Android phone (even those with only one camera, such as the Droid) and Skype on PC/Mac, Qik only allows two-way video calls to other HTC Evo 4G phones at this time.

Right now, Fring has more Pros than Cons in its favor, though we do wish that the quality was better. If the company can deliver something on a par with Qik, the only reason Evo owners might have to choose the latter app is the video recording feature. Which of these apps sounds best to you?

Thanks again to James Kendrick of JKOnTheRun for being our video chat buddy!

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  1. Dale Sackrider, II Says:

    I disagree with the verdict greatly – besides the crap like push to talk – you can only talk with other QIK users that HAVE THE EVO! How many of your buddies were there with you on opening day picking up theirs? For me – I know 3 EVO users in person. But all of my friends and family are on skype and skype works from a laptop.

    I was able to make a video call over 3G with Fring and it worked great. QIK failed at launch and will not likely take off as long as they do not have a desktop version and most phones don’t have front facing cameras (by most I mean, all except the EVO until the iPhone comes out – and then all the iPhoners will be using Facetime – so it doesn’t look well for QIK)…

  2. Bhaskar Roy @ Qik Says:

    Hello – wanted to clarify regarding Premium capabilities. The basic video chat will be free even after July 15. The Premium enable you to do video mail, get higher quality, unlimited archiving and more. For more information on the difference between Free and Premium capabilities, please refer to http://qik.com/blog/newqik.

    Further, we are looking at supporting Qik Video Chat capability for all the 140+ phone models (http://qik.com/phones) that we support for Qik today.

  3. NeoteriX Says:

    I was under the impression that Qik clarified its position and that “premium” features will be a paid service (video over 480p, although it’s unclear how the frontside camera can even go any higher), but that basic video chat would stay free.

  4. K. T. Bradford Says:

    Bhaskar, thanks for the clarification. I’ve amended the post to reflect this. :)

  5. Patrick Says:

    Skype & N900 beat the crap out of EVO + Fring & Qik…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lz9zwfGKX20

    ;D

  6. Tricia Says:

    Can someone PLEASE explain to me how exactly to place a Fring to Skype video call? I just got my HTC EVO phone and I’m having a baby on Monday, 6/28. I have a 4 year old at home and want to be able to “kiss” her goodnight and have had absolutely no luck going from Skype ( on my MacBook Pro) to Fring or vice versa. Step by step instructions would be greatly appreciated! THANKS!!!

    ~Tricia

  7. Neil Says:

    @Tricia: It may be too late for that call to your 4 year old but if you are still having trouble getting it to work you can follow these steps.

    1. Create a skype account if you have not already done so and download the application to your desktop PC (or Macbook Pro).

    2. On the desktop version of Skype please add the appropriate contacts that you wish to chat with.

    3. Download the Fring application from the Android Market onto your EVO 4G.

    4. After downloading the Fring app create a Fring account by entering username/password and photo if you wish.

    5. Log into the Fring app on your EVO and hit the menu (hardware) button. Click “Settings” then click “Add Ons”. This menu option may only be available on certain screens so switch between screens if it does not appear right away.

    6. In the “Add Ons” page you should see a grid with symbols that represent different applications, one of them being a blue icon that represents SKYPE. Click on that icon and it should prompt you to enter in your skype username and password.

    7. After doing this (mine took several attempts) it may take a moment for Fring to verify your skype account and link your skype profile. However, after you see a check mark on the skype icon that signifies that you are succesfully connected.

    8. Once connected you should see your skype contacts on the page that shows all of your contacts (you can modify who is shown by clicking on Menu>>>More>>>Settings). If they are online or you have the option to “Show Offline Buddies” checked then you should see at least one contact. If you see none you may have to logout of skype and re-open the app. This took me at least two tries to accomplish.

    9. Finally, simply clicking on a skype contact will show you 3 icons that will let you chat, call, or video chat with that person.

    I hope this helps.

    -Neil

  8. Jason Says:

    @Patrick: You can’t compare any smartphone to the N900. It’s a mobile computer that just so happens to be marketed as a smartphone. Not even the same category.

    Written from my HTC Evo on my awesome 4g network!

  9. Scott Says:

    I tried to do a Fringe to Skype call today and quickly learned that Skype has now blocked Fringe, so you can no longer do Skype video calls on the EVO 4G until Skype puts out their own Android app later this year. That explains why none of my Skype contacts showed up in my existing Fringe account once I had signed in.

    I support Skype monetarily, and they go and do this? How utterly disappointing!

  10. Chito Manas Says:

    Tested Fring today, the video is very good I purchased a two way mirror for my Motorola Droid, but the audio is bad, there was a lag or sometimes you can’t hear the other person. You can do video call on Fring between Fring users, since Skype blocked Fring from connecting to their network. There’s some rumor that Skype Mobile is going to come up with an update so we can do video call, until then. All these front facing cameras are limited amongst themselves, until they can come up with more front facing cameras or more applications better than what we have right now.

  11. juan Says:

    chito… where did u get ur mirror for ur droid?

  12. Käfer Says:

    While Apple crows over their “new” video calling and, until Skype & Fring & Qik sort out what exactly what it is they’re trying to achieve with theirs, we’ll just have to make do with the same mobile-to-mobile video calling my family has been using on Australia’s 3 network on a variety of Windows Mobile phones for the past 6 years.

  13. jmadams007 Says:

    I would suggest using oovoo. its a free video and voice chatting service that enables you to either chat from computer to computer. also from cell phone to computer and cell phone to cell phone. it recently came out but its really awesome and you cant beat free. http://www.oovoo.com. check it out.

  14. David Says:

    So, bottom line…..which is better on the Evo: Qik or Fring???

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