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Use ClearSea for user-friendly video conference calls

Jack Wallen takes a look at ClearSea, a cloud-based video conferencing app for Android and iOS mobile devices.

Tablets are great for working remotely and on-the-go, but not all work can be done with documents and email. There are times when you need to have a face-to-face meeting with one or more people. Fortunately, with a handy service called ClearSea, video conferencing is made quite simple.

ClearSea is a cloud-based solution that can connect you with up to three participants with the following pricing options:

  • Free: Five minutes per call, video quality up to CIF (352x288), bandwidth limited to 384 Kbps
  • $29.00 per month: Unlimited calls, video quality up to 4CIF (704x576), bandwidth limited to 768 Kbps
  • $39.00 per month: Unlimited calls, video quality up to full HD 1080p, bandwidth limited to 2 Mbps

The features of ClearSea on tablets include:

  • Address Book, Calls History, Privacy mode switch
  • Send DTMF in-band or out-of-band
  • H.224, H.281 (FECC)
  • Video: Support for H.264 720p 15fps and qHD(960x540) 30fps on iPad 2 / qHD on selected Android devices / ITU-T H.263+ simultaneous encode/decode, up to CIF resolution (352x288), 15fps, 384Kbps on all other supported devices
  • Audio: G.711 μ-law, A-law
  • Supports in-band dynamic resolution changes

ClearSea is also available as a desktop client for Windows and Mac.

Installation

ClearSea will work on quite a few mobile devices (see the full listing). Here's how to install ClearSea on your Android tablet:

  1. Open up Google Play
  2. Search for "clearsea" (no quotes)
  3. Tap the ClearSea entry (not the ClearSea Live Wallpaper entry)
  4. Tap Download, and then click Accept and Install

Once installed, you'll find ClearSea in your Application Drawer (or an icon on your home screen). Before you open the app, go to the ClearSea site and register for an account. You only need to enter a username, password, and email address. A confirmation email will be sent. Upon clicking the confirmation link within the email, your ClearSea account will be ready to go.

Usage

Fire up the client. You'll be greeted by a simple log-in screen. Enter the username and password you created -- but don't monkey with the server address. Once you've successfully logged in, you'll see the main screen (Figure A). In this screen, the testcall entry will be listed. Click on that to connect to to the test call account. You'll hear a recorded voice and see a simple animated video. While that's playing, you'll be recorded on screen and audio. After the recording session is over, the recorded video is then played back. This will give you a clear indication that everything is up and ready to go. Figure A

The testcall listing will disappear as soon as you add someone to your contacts.
To place a call, you must know the recipient's ClearSea username. When you have that, enter in the text area at the top of the ClearSea app window, and then tap the green phone icon in the top right corner. The recipient will then get a message of the incoming call (Figure B). Figure B

The username of the person initiating this call has been hidden to protect the innocent.
When the call is accepted, the video chat window will open (Figure C). Figure C

ClearSea being used on a Verizon-branded Samsung Galaxy Tab. This is the Free plan, which limits the size of the chat screen.
To make the buttons appear (that you see in Figure C) on the chat window, simply tap  the screen. With these buttons you can:
  • Drop: End the call
  • Switch Camera: If your tablet has a front- and rear-facing camera, switch between them
  • Keypad: Display a numeric keypad
  • Stop Audio: Mute the call
  • Stop Video: Black out video
  • Hide PiP: Hide the video display
  • Far Camera Controls: If the camera can be controlled remotely, this will open a control pad that allows you to pan the camera

If you plan to use ClearSea frequently, it might be worth it to pony up for one of the paid plans. The higher resolution and bandwidth will certainly be worth the cost (as you can see, the video displayed on the free version is quite tiny).

Adding users to your contacts

If you have a user that you want to have quick access to, you can add them to your list of contacts by tapping the menu button (three horizontal lines on the bottom panel) and then tapping add. In the resulting window (Figure D), fill out the user's information (making sure to enter their ClearSea username as the Dialstring). Figure D

Dialstring and Name are the only two piece of information that are required.

With a user saved in your contacts, initiating a conference is as simple as tapping their name in the Contacts tab and waiting for them to accept the incoming request.

It's not a perfect system, but it's one of the best that's available at the moment. The clarity of video is good (use on Wi-Fi for best results, of course), and the ease of use is far better than nearly all video conferencing apps on the Android tablet.

Do you use ClearSea for video conferencing? If not, what video conferencing app(s) have you used? Please share your experience in the discussion thread below.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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