Home Do Consumers Really Want Video Calling?

Do Consumers Really Want Video Calling?

Once a communication device for futuristic Sci Fi, now it seems as though video calling is ubiquitous. On the heels of the video conferencing component of the new Google Plus comes the announcement today from Facebook headquarters that video calling will now be available on the social networking site as well. Google Plus Hangouts and the new video chat in Facebook join a plethora of other offerings, most notably perhaps Apple Facetime, the video calling feature introduced as part of the iPhone 4 last summer.

As Apple, Google, and now Facebook scramble to offer their users video chat options, it’s clear that these companies are looking to meet a huge perceived demand for the functionality. We all want to bypass simple voice messaging for a face-to-face video conversation, right?

Well, maybe.

At Facebook today, Skype CEO Tony Bates offered some impressive statistics about the amount of video calling that the VOIP service is witnessing. He said that Skype users average about 300 million minutes per month of video calling, a figure that makes up about 50% of Skype’s traffic.

Video Calling: The Future or Just a Fad?

But other figures suggest that while there is a growing interest in video calling, it is still just a small portion of phone or VOIP communication. According to a survey by VOIP service Rebtel that we reported on last month, 13% use video chat to talk to family, 9% use it to talk to friends and just 6% use it to talk to their significant other.

Of course, the ease with which Skype integrates with Facebook is sure to boost the frequency with which we video chat. And as tech pundits and early adopters continue to rave about the Hangouts feature of Google Plus, perhaps we’ll join The New York Times’ Jenna Wortham in realizing what a “life-changing” experience it can be.

Or perhaps we’ll find that, video chat is a nice feature to use every once and a while… with some people… on days you’re fully dressed… and are in a tidy room with nice back-lighting, but isn’t really a killer feature at all. It will be like my experience with FaceTime on the iPhone – something I used once to see if it worked and haven’t utilized since. Indeed, The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal wonders if it isn’t “the cupholder of social networking” – in other words, that extra feature that isn’t really necessary to run the machine, but one that we judge on whether or not we want to buy the car.

Do you see yourself using video chat more frequently? Or is it merely a new shiny toy to test-drive today, before returning to the good ol’ fashioned voice call?

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