The iPhone has a few video chatting options, but Skype tends to be the best thanks to its ability to work on virtually any connection to the internet, good picture quality, and ability to communicate with practically every other platform you can imagine.
- Make video calls with other Skype members over Wi-Fi or 3G
- Works with both front-facing and rear-facing cameras
- Video calls are free (aside from the cost of internet access)
- Anti-shake feature stabilises your video calls
- Use a Bluetooth headset for audio
Note: These are the features that pertain to video chat only. For a look at the full feature set, visit Skype's iPhone features page.
Skype for iPhone is very simple, which is something the desktop app might want to consider. You choose the person you want to video chat with, press the video icon, and the call begins. It's very straightforward and easy to use. The call quality is pretty good. It functions well over 3G. While Skype definitely does a better job with voice calls, its iPhone video chat works well and provides a good experience. It also lets you connect with practically any platform, making it possible to video chat with virtually anybody regardless of your location.
Skype always comes with its quirks. Sometimes your video won't show up on the first try and you'll have to toggle between video and voice to get it to work. Sometimes calls won't connect right away. Usually everything works fine, but it's not a perfect experience. If it weren't for the occasional bugs it probably would be pretty close. The primary thing it's really missing (and will never have) is the ability to video chat with other services, but hopefully we'll get that from Fring (see the competition section) in the future.
Facetime is the obvious competition for Skype, as it's Apple's built-in option. The problem is that it only works with other iOS and Mac users, plus it only works over Wi-Fi. While we found the video quality was sometimes marginally better with Facetime, it was nothing to write home about. That said, Facetime is either part of your device or it isn't. Since there's nothing to install and you can use it as you please, it makes for a good alternative when needed. Just don't expect it to be a good full-time option (unless all your friends and family members only have newer iPhones and Macs).
Fring (Free) is actually a very good alternative to Skype. The video quality it provides is adaptive, meaning it'll shift upwards or downwards depending on what your connection can handle. It offers video calling over Wi-Fi and 3G. It's also provides plenty of other ways to communicate, like voice-only and text, with several services instead of just one. If you could use it to video chat over Google or AIM it would definitely be the best. Currently, however, you're restricted to other Fring clients. This makes it a great option for chatting with other phones, but it leaves out people on the desktop which limits your options a bit. That said, Fring is pretty great and definitely worth a look.
Google+ (Free) is only a pseudo-alternative as you can't actually initiate any kind of video chat from the app itself. You can, however, join a hangout that someone else starts, so it technically offers video chat. It's kind of strange you can't start your own hangout from the app, but perhaps that will change. While you're not going to want to consider this your full-time video chat application by any means, it's still good to know it can do it (especially since the app seems to have no indicator of any hangout capabilities whatsoever).
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