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FaceTime via cellular: Will it work, and can you afford it?

Matt Hamblen | June 12, 2012
Apple's next-generation iOS will allow FaceTime video chats over cellular connections, but analysts question whether 3G networks offer enough bandwidth for quality chats and say 4G network use could be pricey.

FaceTime over cellular "certainly [won't work out] if it raises people's bills" with carriers, Gold said.

Stories of exorbitant data usage bills for downloading video over a cellular connection are growing commonplace and AT&T and Verizon now offer tips and smartphone monitoring tools to guard against exceeding monthly data limits. They also send warnings to users when limits are exceeded.

Still, customers surprises could increase when FaceTime goes cellular.

One Computerworld reader who asked not to be named said she was surprised recently to get an $80 unexpected addition to her Verizon bill primarily for downloading a video attachment from a relative sent via email on her new iPhone operating over 3G. The video was less than 10 minutes long, she said, although she confessed she wasn't familiar with the terms of her new data plan or how she should monitor it.

Computerworld illustrated the data usage problem with video over Verizon LTE in December by downloading an HD 128-minute feature-length film to a Galaxy Nexus smartphone, which took up 3.7 GB of data. At the time, Verizon was charging $30 for 4GB per month at the time, up from the normal $30 for 2GB.

In addition to tools to monitor data usage, AT&T and Verizon also have some sage, if ironic, advice to avoid high data use over cellular: use Wi-Fi when possible. "You may want to use Wi-Fi when streaming video," Verizon said in a recent list of tips to its customers to help manage a data usage allowance.

It's advice that could matter for FaceTime-over-cellular as well.

Keith Shaw talks with Computerworld News Editor Ken Mingis about today's Apple announcements at the Worldwide Developer Conference, which included new MacBook Pro hardware, MacBook Air notebooks and updates to OS X and iOS 6.

 

 

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