Videocalls are available in UMTS networks and supported by most 3G handsets in the market. Still, how many people do actually use it? Have you tried it yourself?
Among the factors that prevent people from video calling, the privacy issue is one of the main concerns. You do not want your boss to videocall you and find that you are not working from home as you told him. Other people are shy to be seen in a videocall because they do not like to see themselves in video. And then, there is the uncertainty whether the other party has a 3G phone and whether your friend will like to be disturbed by an intrusive videocall. Other factor not to dismiss, is simply that people do not have in their mind that they can do a video call from their phone. In other words, they are not educated to use video calls.
Whatever the reasons, the fact is 3G video calls have not taken off (yet).
Still video adds significant richness to communications, compare to audio only, be it for 3G video calls or video conferencing in general. I do use Skype video calls with my family and friends, and once you are used to it, you do not want to do voice only. Skype says that 28% of the calls between users are video calls.
Clearly video calls are not to be used for all communications. Same as sometimes it is more appropriate to use SMS than a phone call, in many cases an audio call is preferrable to a video call. Texting is less intrusive than a phone call, and a phone call is less intrusive than a video call. Still for a more intense communication video is a better option, but you might want a degree of intimacy with the other party before opting for video.
In the enterprise segment, videoconferencing is clearly growing and the ultimate video communication tool, Telepresence, is getting traction. Corporates do find value in video communications. As with many other technologies, enterprises are adopting first and consumers will follow, as it happened with mobile phones, laptops or mobile email.
Skype, and all new laptops with webcam incorporated, are set to be one of the drivers of video communications. The agreement with Jaman to insert movie clips in Skype calls, as reported by GigaOm and TechCrunch, should only help to add more value to our video calls, and incentive its use.
Coming back to 3G, as UMTS handsets become affordable for teenagers (the greatest early adopters of new ways of communication) I would not be surprised to see 3G video calls taking off soon. These kids have grown used to being recorded in video since birth, so the shyness factor clearly disappears. They use the phones in many ways most of us can not do, and do not expect video to be an exception
If James Bond and Austin Powers used video calls in the seventies, wouldn’t the twenty first century kids do it too?