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!
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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!