AT&T Will Soon Allow Customers to Hang Out

AT&T (NYSE:T) is reacting to criticism about limitations on video chat apps, having given a statement saying we can expect the network to give approval to all video chat apps by the end of the year.

Video chat has been a major issue for AT&T. It has long limited the availability of video chat on the network, having only recently allowed customers not on unlimited plans to use Apples (NASDAQ:AAPL) FaceTime app. And with the launch of Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) new Hangouts app, which integrates video chatting, Gmail, and the old Google Talk app into one, AT&T users weren’t happy they couldn’t access video chat. Upon trying the new app, customers were met with a message reading: “You must be connected to a Wi-Fi network to join a video call.”

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AT&T says customers on unlimited plans will be able to use video chat by mid-June, as long as they have an LTE device from Apple, Samsung, or BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY). Other devices will gain the capability by the end of the year, but it will take “work” on the company’s part to see it happen. Some have speculated about whether said work entails technical work on the mobile network’s capabilities or paperwork to craft a contract that will allow AT&T to charge customers what they deem is fit.

Strangely enough, AT&T customers can use any video chat app that has not been preloaded on the phone and can be downloaded from the Internet. FaceTime is an example of one video chat app that comes preloaded on most phones, while Skype is one that is more frequently downloaded online. No devices have yet shipped with Google Hangouts preloaded, but the app is available for download in the iTunes Store. Once downloaded to an iOS device, an AT&T customer can use Hangouts, but the app is still blocked from Android devices on the network. Additionally, it makes little sense to limit the apps based on whether they came preloaded or whether they were downloaded, since the downloaded apps use the same amount of bandwidth as the preloaded ones. AT&T claims that preloaded apps are used more frequently, thus the reason for the distinction.

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Either way, by the end of the year AT&T customers should be able to access video chat apps regardless of the device or whether they’re on an unlimited plan.

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