FaceTime, as iPhone and iPad users know, allows owners of Apple products to conduct video chat sessions with one another. However, until the next version of Apple's iOS mobile operating system ships this fall, FaceTime works only over a Wi-Fi connection.
T-Mobile Bobsled Has 2 Million Users
Beyond Skype and FaceTime, you can find a host of newer entrants in the OTT voice, video, and messaging market, offering various tweaks and features. One of the latest to gain a significant following is the Bobsled service from T-Mobile, which originally launched as a way to initiate a call from a Facebook page.
Bobsled has since morphed into a full-featured Internet voice app, available for all flavors of mobile devices including Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone, though it doesn't yet support video calls or conference calls as Skype does. But unlike with Skype, all Bobsled calls are free, and the Facebook integration (such as the ability to leave voice messages on friends' Facebook walls) may be of greater interest to people who spend most of their online time on Facebook.
According to Alex Samano, director of communication services for T-Mobile USA, the Bobsled service has attracted 2 million users, who have made more than 10 million calls since the app's introduction in April 2011. Apparently the service is very popular among people who wish to contact folks in other countries, since according to T-Mobile 80 percent of all Bobsled calls so far are to a number outside the United States.
The other interesting twist to Bobsled is that you don't need to be a T-Mobile customer to use it--in fact, according to T-Mobile, 95 percent of its 2 million users aren't T-Mobile customers.
Video Chat From Tango, Oovoo
Another area attracting over-the-top innovation is video chat, in which two or more people use mobile phones or desktop connections to have a virtual-reality kind of interaction. One of the newer entries in this market is Tango, an app that soared like a rocket when it debuted in the fall of 2010.