One of the benefits of owning a tablet is being able to communicate with other users in various ways. Thanks to the front-facing cameras on many tablets, it’s not only possible to work with video chat, it’s actually quite simple … once you know what you’re doing.
Here’s the thing — there are a lot of video chat and chat apps on the Android Market, but not many of them work. Fortunately, most Android tablets running Honeycomb (or greater) have an outstanding built-in video chat tool called “Talk” that’s ready and waiting for you take advantage of Wi-Fi-based video chat. I want to walk you through the steps of getting Talk up and running so that feature won’t go to waste on your fancy tablet.
What you will need
Here’s a short list of the things you’ll need to video chat:
- Android tablet (I’m demonstrating on a Verizon-branded Motorola Xoom)
- Google Account
- People to chat with (that also have a Google account and everything necessary for video chat)
A nice thing about the Android tablet is that anyone with one is likely to have a Google account. This means that Google Talk should not be a problem. It is, however, not required to use the Chrome browser on the PC end. As long as Google Voice and Chat has been installed, nearly any browser can run video chat.
How to start a video chat session
Step 1: Authenticate to your Google account
You can do this by opening up Google Talk and then signing in to your Google Account. Without performing this step, you will not be able to use video chat.
Step 2: Locate the person
From the left navigation, select the user you want to initiate the video chat instance with. Once you’ve selected the user, tap the video camera button in the right navigation (see Figure A).
If the Allow video and voice chats checkbox is unchecked, you will need to check it to enable this feature for that particular user.
Step 3: Await for the response
The next step is to simply await the contact, on the other end of the chat, to accept the request. Once the request has been accepted, the video chat window will change (see Figure B) and you can begin your chat.
Yeah, that’s me in both windows, having a video chat with myself.
The small window you see in Figure B is the window for the user who initiated the chat (in my instance, from my Xoom tablet). The larger window shows the user on the receiving end of the chat (in this case, a laptop running Fedora 15).
What about other video chats?
Surprisingly enough (or not, since Microsoft bought Skype), video chat is only available on a limited number of Android devices — and even then, it’s quite spotty when it works. In many cases, Skype on 3.0.1 or better will do nothing but reset the device.
There are a number of other video chat clients, most of which require you (and those you want to chat with) to sign up for a service. The problem is, many of those seem to either be defunct already, have constant registration or connection issues, or are simply too buggy to use. Of course, since nearly any mobile or desktop device, regardless of platform, can take advantage of Google Talk, and since Google’s particular take on the video chat app is really quite good, why bother with anything else?
So, since the Android platform was made to seamlessly integrate with Google Apps, it makes perfect sense for anyone with a tablet to go with Google Talk. Their app is rock solid, easy to use, and… well, we have a better shot at knowing the future of Google as it applies to Android than any other application or service.