Jun 20 AT 12:39 PM Russell Holly 14 Comments

T-Mobile Blocking Google Talk Video Chat over 3G/4G; We want the truth

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?

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  • http://www.itstechknowledgy.com Colin

    I sure hope this post gains some attention. These types of practices are really killing some cool features on far too many devices today. Technology is capable of so much more than the carriers allow!

  • http://Website creliandobi

    way to go, T-Mobile. drive taht customer experience (and customer to a different carrier).
    they’re slowly becoming worse & worse if this problem persists.

    future suggestion: could you add “T-MO” or something similar about the carrier in your title? i was about to go ape shart before reading through your article only to learn it was for TMO users only. not that it’s any bit more acceptable–but it’s a little vague. but this title makes it look like EVERY g-chat user is confined to wifi.

    • Russell Holly

      Sorry about that, Changed :)

    • bob

      I’m on AT&T with that app, same deal. Wifi only even to just do a voice call.

  • http://Website ts

    i thought this kind of ..can only happen on devices that have backdoors installed by carriers – and the nexus devices are an exempt ..so where am i mistaken?

  • http://Website Genjinaro

    Well I’m sure it’s to slowly get used to how things will be under at&t. It’s sad really & a reminder of why the merger is bad.

  • http://Website Miguel

    I hope this gets fixed and the HTC Sensation sees Android 2.3.4 soon.

    I have tried to use Qik and it must be one the most un-user-friendly communication apps I have ever used. Me, my brother, dad, and mom all have Android phone with FFC, and it is a pain to even add each other to our Qik contact lists.

    You’d think Qik would simply recognize contacts by their phone number but it doesn’t. You also have to “verify” your account on their website. I still have figured out how to add my brother to my mom’s contact list, despite the fact that his full name, e-mail address, and phone number are in her Android address book, Yet Qik cannot match his contact file with his Qik user account for some reason. it’s highly annoying.

    Why does T-Mobile allow crappy Qik to operate over 3G/4G, yet GTalk gets the shaft?

    Tango is a bit better.

  • http://Website mmalakai10

    I don’t seem to understand why these thing constently plague the smartphone universe. These carriers promote these smartphone to draw customers in and when they purchase these phone. Almost everything is free to use then when they feel they have enough customers they start taking away feature like I’m not paying for them. When purchasing these device and seeing all these cool features but later find out they can’t be used. Example have u ever wondered why they are talking away unlimited data? Of course u do…they know alot of these apps use the internet to function. So take away unlimited data so ppl can go over there data plan so they can make more money. Netflix needs internet to stream using alot of internet to make the movie run flawlessly. Imo all these carriers are dirty in there own little way. It sucks that u can’t use any feature that comes with the device anymore without the carrier stepping in and charging for everything. Funny thing is yet alot carriers cry that there losing money or not making enough money. Carrier need to respect the customer more and stop trying to nickel and dime the ppl that is helping there company grow. Just my opinion, i could be wrong though.lol

  • http://Website mmalakai10

    I still feel these carriers are crippling the smartphone business and not offering there growth with the smartphone. Data I pay for is with my hard earned money is mine to use nobody should be able to dictate how I use my data but me. Free the smartphone features and tethering we the customers rule the air.make them bend to ur will stay free…….I’m sorry I had to write that FREE

  • cj100570

    This is what happens when carriers have pay to play deals; Verizon/Bing, Sprint/TeleNav, etc. Google needs to step in and put foot to T-Mo posterior about the crippling of video chat and Verizon for the abomination of removing Google services in lieu of that garbage from Redmond. At least Sprint has the decency not to restrict Google Nav due to it’s relationship with TeleNav.

  • http://blog.tenkely.net tenkely

    “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”

    Not true. I own a G-Slate and am prompted to connect to WiFi when trying to make a video chat over 3 or 4G. Do you have pics or video of a G-Slate initiating or receiving a video chat off WiFi? I would love to know if I am the only one blocked.

    • Russell Holly

      I have confirmed since you posted this that video chat over 3G/4G does in fact work on the G-Slate.

  • http://Website dans

    If it works on the other devices, then its not a technical issue, its a policy issue.

    Depends on your terms of service, if your allowed to use these kind of services, then start shouting at Tmo.

    • http://Website J.

      The overriding and most important part of my Terms of Service is that I give them $x.xx every month for data. How I get that data and/or what I use that data for is (or should be) NONE OF THEIR DAMN BUSINESS!