I specifically remember beaming with a sensation not unlike pride the day Google Talk Video Chat was released on Android 2.3.4 devices. Here we had a video chat solution that worked not only from phone-to-phone, but also from phone-to-just about anything on the planet with an internet connection, a webcam and a modern browser. As someone who used Google Talk exclusively, (along with most of my friends and family), this was a huge deal. And it was FREE to boot! I imagined the Android community simultaneously fist pumping and offering satisfyingly rude gestures at their iFriends, who were clearly stuck with an inferior product that forced lock-in and cost money. For just about a month, it was a pretty good time. Then, without warning or explanation or apology, T-Mobile ruined the ride.
Nexus S users who went to chat with their favorite person on May 16th found themselves greeted with a message that read, “You must be connected to a Wi-Fi network to start a video chat.” My social networks were flooded with angry messages demanding to know what was going on. It seemed as though T-Mobile had “pulled an AT&T,” a sentiment that carries even greater weight as we all sit waiting for the merger of those two companies to happen. So, week after week I ask my T-Mobile contacts what the deal was. How had this happened? Why did this happen? Could we expect this to be fixed in the future? Nothing. The responses I got were never more than “we’re looking into it, please bear with us.” Certainly not the answer I was looking for, but if it was some kind of big misunderstanding, I could be patient for awhile and let them fix it, right?
It has now been over a month since T-Mobile disabled the service, and still not a word from them as to why this has happened or what they plan to do about it. I’ve heard countless theories as to why this might have happened. One was that T-Mobile failed to add a signature for the Nexus S when they disabled P2P data traffic on their network. Other theories involve T-Mobile “protecting” users from a poor experience by disabling a feature that would cause them to quickly exceed their data limit. I’ve posed this question to the masses in the hopes that maybe a network engineer ninja of some type would speak up, but rumors, confusion and speculation have been the only real result. I was about ready to give up on this uphill fight when I received a review unit of the T-Mobile GSlate.
Much to my chagrin, I discovered quickly that not only does Google Talk video work on the GSlate, but it works great in both 3G and 4G networks. Better, in fact, then the 3G Motorola Xoom in an area where Verizon is widely considered to be the dominant carrier in terms of overall performance. As a Nexus S owner, this was nothing short of a slap in the face. Had T-Mobile intentionally disabled video chat on a smartphone data plan but activated it on a tablet data plan? Or, is this the result of the new tiered data plans? Since I’m grandfathered on a previous plan, has my Nexus S been blacklisted? If I had a Nexus S on the new 10GB “unlimited” plan, would the service just magically return?
This issue has left all T-Mobile’s customers bereft of the explanation they rightfully deserve. Obviously, locating and solving the problem is not a priority for T-Mobile. What do you think? Is this just the result of the merger? Is T-Mobile up to something more sinister in terms of throttling usage? Are you like me and would be happy with any kind of answer, just so long as it didn’t feel like we were being ignored and denied features they have no business disabling? What say you, T-Mobile?