Although Apple CEO Steve Jobs gave the world its first official look at iPhone OS 4.0 this week, he apparently didn’t reveal all its features. People combing through the developer version of the OS have found that it will include video conferencing software.
Buried in the next version of Apple’s mobile operating system is a process named “iChatAgent,” leaving little room for doubt that the service is coming to Apple’s smartphones and similar devices.
Currently available on computers running Mac OS X, iChat allows users to communicate with instant messages and two-way video.
If future iPhone, iPod touch or iPad models are going to offer video conferencing, Apple will need to build a front-facing camera, which is reportedly in the works.
People with early access to iPhone OS 4.0 have found code that will allow devices running it to switch between a front-facing and rear-facing camera.
It’s likely Jobs didn’t announce the feature at the April 8 unveiling of the new operating system because doing so would reveal that future models will include a front-facing camera, and Apple wanted its event to be about iPhone OS 4.0, not the hardware running it.
Coming to Which Apple Models?
It’s not known when Apple intends to bring video chatting to all its mobile devices, if that’s the plan at all. The company certainly isn’t making it a priority, as the first-generation iPad debut last week without a rear-facing camera.
At this point, it now appears likely that only next-generation iPhones expected to hit the market this summer will offer video conferencing support, at least for a while. It may come to additional models as Apple refreshes its iPod touch and iPad line.
In the meantime, it’s possible for Apple to bring the instant messaging aspect of iChat to its mobile devices without requiring new hardware.
More Strain for AT&T?
If Apple is going to bring two-way video chatting to its iPhone, the move could put an additional burden on AT&T’s 3G network, which has been criticized for already being overtaxed in large cities like New York City and San Francisco. Still, since Apple couldn’t add the feature without AT&T’s cooperation, the carrier likely has the necessary wireless bandwidth.
Another possibility gives credence to persistent but unconfirmed reports that Apple is going to end its long-running exclusive agreement with AT&T and allow Verizon and other carriers to offer its smartphones. If that’s the case, it’s possible that video conferencing could be an exclusive feature of Verizon’s version of the iPhone.