Tango, a cross-platform mobile video chat application, had a notable launch at the end of September 2010. Thanks to a high-profile review in the Wall St. Journal, the application was downloaded a million times within the first 10 days of its release. But did the downloads trail off as the hype died down?
No, they did not. Now, approximately 6 weeks later, Tango is reporting it has crossed the 3 million download mark and is available in 127 countries around the world. People want mobile video chat, it seems. But Tango isn't going to stop at mobile - the company is planning to bring Tango to all your screens - desktop, tablet, mobile and TV.
Tango aims to make mobile video calling simple and non-technical. Within 20 seconds after download, it should be up-and-running, filled with the names of other Tango users it pulls from your address book.
But mobile is just the beginning for this company: ?"our goal is to be ubiquitous," Tango's Founder and CTO Eric Setton tells us. Well, it's off to a good start.
In the six or so weeks since launch, the application has been downloaded over three million times, as noted above, and has an active and engaged community of users who tend to use Tango to call family and friends in their close, personal circle of social connections.
(To put the 3 million in perspective, look at Foursquare, the much-discussed mobile social "checkin" app. It just hit 4.5 million users, since its break-out moment at the SXSW conference in March 2009.)
Another interesting note which should be encouraging to Android developers: Tango found that 80% of its customer base is transitioning to new versions as they become available. (The iPhone app has not yet been updated, so this is Android-only data). The company also found that activity on both platforms is similar in terms of calls being made - there are plenty of iPhone-to-iPhone, Android-to-Android and iPhone-to-Android (and vice versa) calls going around on both of the mobile platforms, in relatively equal numbers.
Why is Mobile Video Chat Working Now?
Tango admits it's getting a boost from Apple's launch of FaceTime, the mobile video chatting feature in iPhone 4. However, unlike FaceTime, Tango works over Wi-Fi and 3G, while FaceTime only does Wi-Fi. Tango also works on other devices, for now that being Android smartphones.
Another factor contributing to the rise of mobile video chat is the abundance of app stores - companies can be in direct contact with end users, says Setton, and they're no longer restricted by the operators and handset manufacturers acting as gatekeepers.
Additionally, 3G networks are able to handle video traffic, and there's a general "consumer readiness" for the idea, thanks to Skype, which has now seen some 150 billion calls, 40% of which involved video, Setton explained.
What's Tango Doing Next?
Although Tango won't officially say what platform it's launching on next, Setton did explain that it has to run on the native layer in order to use its own video encoder and decoder, which adapt to the 3G network connection. At the moment, Windows Phone 7 and Blackberry don't offer this level of access, but discussions are underway to change that. Nokia Symbian devices, however, already support this functionality.
So how did Tango pick its next platform? That's a good question, Setton responded. There wasn't a clear answer. Partly, it was technical considerations, but it's obvious that Tango is watching consumer trends too. It's definitely considering a tablet app, for example.
Before the holidays, iPhone users will have new versions of Tango to try out. The first update will be a simple optimization/maintenance release but the one arriving just prior to Christmas promises to be more exciting, with a lot of new features Tango won't talk about right now.