Oct 12 AT 12:54 PM Taylor Wimberly 36 Comments

Video calling will be a major feature in Gingerbread phones

Not much is known about the future Android update codenamded Gingerbread (which could end up as Android 2.3, 2.5, or who knows), but as we approach the release early next year more details are starting to trickle out. We think it will feature a new user interface, be optimized for gaming, and according to a recent interview with Andy Rubin we should also expect video chat.

The HTC EVO 4G was the first Android phone with a front-facing camera, but the Android SDK didn’t support that feature at the time of its release and Sprint worked with Qik to provide the first video chat application. Fring also jumped on board with their app, but many of us have been waiting for Google to officially support it with their own service.

In a move that is surely a response to Apple’s FaceTime video chat on the iPhone 4, Android engineers are working to bring Google Talk Video to the mobile platform.

When asked about video chat coming to Android, Andy Rubin responded, “We support video chat today, with Google Talk Video. It works on the desktop. Whether that can be repurposed and made appropriate for sipping bandwidth for mobile, it’s an exercise that’s underway.” If Andy is willing to admit that its underway, that tells me the project could be nearing completion and already in the testing phases.

Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha already said back in June that his company would produce several Android phones this year that featured front-facing cameras. None of those phones have materialized, but we hear the Droid Terminator will be one of Moto’s first devices to receive dual cameras.

HTC and Samsung have already produced Android phones with front-facing cameras so it appears there are finally enough devices out there that Google is ready to put them to use.

I have done a lot of traveling over the last couple of months and I was lucky enough to speak with several hardware parters who are working on Tegra 2 devices. I tried my best to squeeze some Gingerbread details out of them, but most were pretty tight lipped. However, the one thing I heard from several sources was that Gingerbread is going to “change the way we use our phones.”

I’m still not really sure what they meant by that comment, but adding video chat is a good start. What do you think Google has in store for Gingerbread? Would an official video chat application change the way you use your phone?

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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  • http://Website Luke T.

    Should be pretty sweet, hopefully I will be ready for an upgrade from my original droid when these phones come out. :)

  • http://Website Dennis

    Thank you for the post. I’m sure it will be better than Crapple’s facetime or whatever it’s called.

  • http://Website Derrick

    I hope that the Nexus One still gets Gingerbread first – one of the main reasons why I am hanging on to it. If not, I hope that the Motorola T2 comes to AT&T so I can stay on my current plan with unlimited data…

  • http://Website reddragon72

    I just hope that “change the way we use our phones” doesn’t mean totally removing local programming like I have heard about Honeycomb. I don’t want a paperweight just because I don’t have a cell signal.

    • http://Website Siggi

      Remove local programming? Can you explain or leave a link?

    • http://nickedynick.blogspot.com Nickedynick

      You may be getting confused with Chrome OS, which will have a clear emphasis on web apps.

  • http://Website Jeroen Offerijns

    At Google I/O 2010 they showed a webbased Android Market which should make it much easier to find better apps et cetera.

    • http://Website Siddharth

      Try appbrain.com and its corresponding app in the android market.

  • http://Website UniqueNate

    I hope some how its tied in the phone function itself & not just an application. You should be able to go from a voice call to a video call in a touch of a button. I mean it just makes sense to have a option that says call or video call when looking through your contacts. I don’t want everything to be an application. Somethings need to be embedded in the software.

    Also hope this new UI is gorgeous. Windows 7 has made competition for Android. I love Android & it’s customization, but it could use some more gloss & animation, transition affects.

    • AceoStar

      Perhaps I just don’t see it, but since you do, what exactly is the Aesthetic appeal of Windows 7?

      • http://Website Gee

        I’m a designer and love the Metro UI in Windows Phone 7. I haven’t used it yet so I can’t speak of it’s actual usability but it’s minimalistic/typographic UI feels sooooo fresh.

      • http://www.google.com/profiles/anakin78z anakin78z

        I think the simple design look of wp7 is quite nice. Bold text & color, yet overall very simple and easy to look at. The transitions look nice, too.

    • http://nickedynick.blogspot.com Nickedynick

      Get a Sense phone if you want gloss.

    • http://Website rdrizzle

      Windows Phone 7 is ugly….or is it just me?

  • http://Website Lucian Armasu

    This would be great, though totally expected. However, it better work with Facetime, or at least with a Google Talk iphone app, otherwise the feature would be somewhat less compelling than 3rd party apps that you can use to talk between an iPhone and Android, though perhaps easier to use. Hopefully, we won’t have to enter an app to use this. It needs to be very integrated with the phone.

    • http://Website Gee

      I have little doubt that it’ll be cross platform. They’ll do anything to land more use/sign up for their Google Services. Remember, Android is just an extension of that and their ultimate goal of extending their ad business.

    • http://www.google.com/profiles/anakin78z anakin78z

      I really doubt it’ll work with facetime (and really, who cares?), but it will absolutely be cross platform, though Android will likely be the testbed. I’m guessing that Google Talk will finally get some much needed attention with video support, and since it now supports phone calls in gmail on your computer, I’m guessing that google talk, video calling and google voice are going to get a little more cozy with each other.

      Oh, the dialer is just an app on your phone, so I’m not sure what you’re looking for as far as better integreation? I’m sure you’ll be able to initiate a video call from contacts, just as you can initiate a google talk conversation right now, if that’s what you’re looking for?

  • http://nickedynick.blogspot.com Nickedynick

    It’s fine not regulating the Market, the issue is giving the hundreds of decent, useful apps enough of the spotlight. Hopefully the aforementioned web interface will help with this…

  • http://Website Warden Chinbach

    My prediction is that “change the way we use our phones” means Google will become a carrier and offer reduced prices for VoIP calling and you just need carriers for unlimited data plans.

    • http://nickedynick.blogspot.com Nickedynick

      Didn’t Andy Rubin say recently that they weren’t interested in becoming a carrier at the moment?

  • Lane

    Voice Control API

    I’m talking about being ableto ask your phone what your wife’s latest tweet was and have it displayed or read out loud.

    Ask your phone what the temperature is outside, tell your phone to go into silent/vibrate, and any other number of things developers can come up with.

    When at home you just tell your Google TV what to do, no remote required.

    I don’t have any inside information, it just seems like all the Android innovation seems to be happening in the voice control arena and it makes sense for them to double down on that to differentiate themselves from the competition.

    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      I actually think you will see Voice Actions greatly expanded.

      • Lane

        But I think they could do better by creating an API for the Voice Actions engine (for lack of a better term) instead of just expanding what Voice Actions can do.

  • http://Website Sam

    I have it on… “good faith”… that Gingerbread will indeed change the way we use our phones, turning them away from email-centric focus (aside from obvious phone and text) and tuning them into social media, interactive media, and digital media such as streaming audio, video, not just inbound but outbound as well. I’m talking Google Music, podcasting (broadcasting, not just watching/listening), video conference via google voice, a slick darker new interface (sorta resembles Palm OS in a weird way), and a new YouTube interface that puts video streaming more main-stream. Voice actions are clearly expanded upon as well as navigation and social media protocols being more integrated. Our phones will no longer be phones that are capable of doing email and web browsing, but a media hub that entertains us in multiple ways for reading, writing, listening, watching, posting, reacting, and interacting. The revolution is upon us, and Apple is being left in the dust!

    On a more silent note, watch out for something akin(dle) to a fight in a certain e-marketplace soon ;-)


    • http://twitter.com/simontaghioff caffeinedependent

      If there’s one thing Android desperately needs it’s a buttery-smooth, beautiful, and consistent UI.

      Love the ideas coming out of this thread. Smartphones are becoming increasingly similar to one another (you can now multi-task on the iPhone and play Angry Birds on Android) so all platforms are desperately in need of new differentiators such as full voice interaction or cloud-based media management.

  • http://www.sivartech.com/ Travis M

    I’d bet that some of the changes will be coming from the bump top acquisition.

  • Andr3w

    I agree with him a little. I’m tired of these stupid forced closes and apps that don’t work. Anyone who thinks nothing is wrong with the Android Market obviously hasn’t used the Apple App Store. There is a reason why Apple is so successful. For Android, it’s pure luck.

  • SGB101

    Don’t see the draw of the front camera!

  • http://Website jayy336

    So if this happens then Facetime won’t really catch up to the other mobile platforms and be used widely, which was Apple’s goal in the first place.

  • http://Website James!

    That must mean Google is using an Evo/Galaxy S/unreleased phone instead of a Nexus One to test this feature of Gingerbread.

  • http://droidandroidgames.com/ AndroidGames

    Gingerbread is gonna be 3.0
    there are also rumors that they are going to release 3.0 for tablets or phones with 4+ inch displays and resume 2.2+ line for phones with 3.5 inch screens etc.

  • http://Website Joe

    They would be stupid to NOT include support for video chat in the next update. I think a lot of manufactures are waiting for Google to implement the software before they start making more dual-camera phones. It’s still astounding that five months after the iPhone 4 was announced, there are only two Android phones with front-facing cameras, both only available on Sprint.

    • http://Website Bob

      Front facing camera and facetime is not a killer app, it is nice to have, but it wont lead to people telling aah we should buy it for that. I would rather it is more substantial

  • http://Website t0mekk

    I think that Google should improve multimedia support in Android. How can it compete with iOS without equalizer in music player! Shame on you G.

    • http://Website Steve E

      You tried PowerAMP? Its a great app, equalizer, nice ui and animations, almost perfect tbh, better than winamp.

  • PacoBell

    Uhh…WTF is A&M sending me email notifications about these ancient stories now?