To some the term “video conferencing” conjures up images of fancy board rooms, executives in suits and face-to-face connections with business people in far away lands. Until recently, few people have ever thought about how video conferencing can beneficial to families. Consider this: business trips, military families, or just kids missing dad while he’s at work can see one another’s faces with the advent of video conferencing via iPhone. In fact, I have a friend who calls her husband each day at lunch so that their one year old can have a 5 minute “visit” with Daddy before naptime. And who said video conferencing wasn’t for families?
Here’s how it works:
The iPhone 4 and new iPod Touch are equipped with cameras on the front and back of the device. One allows you to take photos of nifty things out in the world, while the other essentially acts as a webcam. The latter camera is the portal through which you’re viewed while using FaceTime.
To start a FaceTime call, you must have a WiFi connection, and the other party must also be using a device capable of supporting FaceTime.
Begin the action by finding the individual that you wish to chat with in the phone’s contacts. Tap the “FaceTime” icon next to the name and the individual will receive a phone call along with a request to join the FaceTime conversation. When they accept, the image seen from their front camera will appear on your screen, along with a thumbnail image of what they’re seeing on the other end.
You can also begin FaceTime once a call is in progress by simply tapping the “FaceTime” icon within the phone call screen. Honestly, FaceTime is easy to use. However, the bugger is that you must have a reliable WiFi connection. So what do you do if that’s not available?
Working off of 3G or WiFi connections, Tango is an app that offers free video calling to anyone else that has the Tango app installed. If I had to sum it up, Tango reminds me of Skype for the iPhone.
To start with Tango, download the free app from the iTunes store. The app will automatically import your address book to look up contacts. Remember, that in order for Tango to work, the other individual must also have the app installed.
To make a call, simply tap the name of the person you’d like to call from within the Tango app. Much like FaceTime, they’ll receive a call notifying them of your incoming call from Tango. When they answer, Tango will automatically be opened with voice-only. To turn on the camera, simply tap the camera icon within the call screen, and ask the other party to do the same.
And just like that, you’ll be chatting face to face. For free!