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Eric Zeman
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Fring Circumvents FaceTime, Brings Video Chat To iPhone

Fring has updated its mobile Internet messaging service and now allows both the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS to conduct two-way video chats with other iPhones, and Android and Symbian phones.

One of the iPhone 4's coolest features is FaceTime, Apple's two-way video chatting software. Apple's software is nearly flawless and works so easily that it should help video chatting become much more mainstream. It has several limitations: it only works over Wi-Fi, and it only works with other iPhone 4s. Want to video chat with your friend, who uses an Android phone? Fring has your back.

Fring has been offering Internet-based messaging and video chat to smartphone platforms for a while now. The latest version, which works with iOS4 on both the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 3GS, provides iPhone users unrestricted two-way video calling over Wi-Fi or 3G internet with other iPhone, Android or Symbian devices.

Aside from video chatting for the iPhone, the new version of Fring offers support for multitasking. It will run in the background while users perform other tasks with their iPhone, and will alert users when there are new chat requests or video.

Fring also has a new social stream, which will integrate users' Twitter and Facebook status updates within the application. Last, Fring has refreshed the address book, which it says now merges contacts across applications and lets users more easily manage their buddy lists.

Smartphone users now have a small handful of options for video chatting. FaceTime is proprietary to Apple and the iPhone, which is a shame, as it works beautifully. Hopefully Apple and its network operator partners will offer FaceTime over 3G before too long, and make it play nice with other platforms.

Fring works over Wi-Fi and 3G with the iPhone, Symbian, Windows Mobile, J2ME, and Android handsets. The problem is it doesn't support all features across all platforms. Qik works over Wi-Fi and 3G, too, with Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, Symbian S60,and Windows Mobile, though with some platforms it only allows for one-way video sharing.

All of these systems need more seamless interoperability with other services. That's the key to making video chatting really take off.

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