As a kid, I watched a lot of TV. On shows like The Jetsons or Star Trek, one thing that was always shown to represent the “future” was video calling. Being able to instantly dial up someone for a video call seemed so cool and impossible at the time.

Now, fast forward a couple of decades, corporate video conferences and video calling features in desktop apps like Skype have become sort of commonplace. The final frontier for video calling was the mobile handset.

On June 4, 2010, Sprint released the EVO 4G in the United States. It is the first Android handset to feature a front-facing camera (in addition to the standard rear-facing one), which makes it perfect for video calling.

Currently, there are two Android apps, Qik and fring, that allow you to take advantage of the EVO’s front-facing camera.

Qik for EVO 4G

I am a long-time user of Qik. They were among the first video services that allowed you to stream live video from your mobile handset. So, if you were at your son’s soccer game, you could stream that live to friends and family over the web.

For the EVO 4G launch, Qik teamed up with Sprint to create a version of its app specifically for video calling. The app comes in two flavors: a free version and a premium version with advanced features for a $4.99 monthly fee.

There are four main functions in Qik: video chat, record, messages, and my videos. For the purposes of this article, we will focus only on video chat, which is available in the free and the premium version of Qik; the premium version gives you options to use higher resolutions during video calls.

To make a video call with Qik:

  1. Fire up the Qik app on your EVO 4G.
  2. Select the Video Chat button (Figure A).
  3. Select another Qik user from your Contacts list or from your Call History.
  4. Wait for the other party to accept the call.

Figure A

Clicking the Video Chat button at the top of the screen starts the video call.

Overall, the video quality has been about what I expected over a 3G connection. It’s definitely not broadcast quality video, but it is completely usable for a video call.  I found that quick pans of the camera resulted in pixelation of the image, but if you stick to talking head-style video, it works OK (Figure B).
Figure B

Talking to myself with Qik.

You can download Qik for EVO 4G in the Android Market.


Fring was able to launch before the EVO 4G and claim the title of world’s first Android video calling app. Unlike Qik for EVO 4G, fring is available on multiple mobile platforms including iPhone. Other than that, fring is very similar to Qik as far as video calling goes.

To make a video call with fring:

  1. Fire up the fring app on your EVO 4G.
  2. Select a contact from your Contacts list.
  3. Click the video camera icon to initiate the call (Figure C).
  4. Wait for the other party to accept the call.

Figure C

Clicking the video camera icon on the lower right of the screen starts the video call.

I have found the video quality with fring (Figure D) to be much better than with Qik — part of this is due to the smaller video window that fring uses. Also, Qik’s servers have been getting hammered with traffic since the EVO 4G launch, so we may see better video quality once they get things more stable.
Figure D

Doing a test call with fring.

You can download fring from the Android Market for free using the QR code shortcut below:

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