Would you pay for FaceTime over 3G?

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If you live in the US, you’ll know that AT&T is one of our four major national carriers. And if you’ve ever had the chance to deal with AT&T, you’ll also know that it’s one of the worst.

Today, the company’s CEO, Randall Stephenson, was part of the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado. While on stage there, he was asked about the recent rumors regarding AT&T’s possible plans to charge for Apple’s FaceTime service when it’s used over the carrier’s network, a feature that was introduced last month during Apple’s WWDC keynote.

The CEO was very coy about this potential extra charge, saying only that he’s “…heard the same rumor…” and that “…it’s too early to talk about pricing.”

I think it’s obvious that he was trying to keep the exorbitant prices a secret until his company is ready to announce them, but that brings up a good question: will anybody actually pay for the ability to use FaceTime over cellular data?

Personally, I never use FaceTime; the obvious answer for me is a big “no!” But I know there are quite a few people who do use the service to keep in touch with friends and family members who aren’t close enough for face-to-face communication. It’s a popular service – and that’s exactly why AT&T wants to get started on monetizing it.

Of course, between capped data plans and lackluster speeds on iPhone hardware (due to its current lack of LTE), it seems like a moot point to charge for FaceTime. It’s a service that requires fast bandwidth to work properly, which ultimately leads to its use of a lot of data – data that is capped by AT&T.

Skype and other video-calling apps should be taken into consideration, as well. Since FaceTime is an iOS-only service, it can only work with iPod touches, iPhones, and iPads. All of these devices – since they are running iOS – have access to Apple’s App Store, which happens to contain a number of third-party video-calling apps. And if it’s on the App Store, chances are that it’ll be cross-compatible with most iDevices, so FaceTime can be replaced very easily.

Some of those apps even work over cellular data already, without AT&T or any other carrier affecting your bill.

With a variety of video-calling options available to iOS users, is there a need to pay for cellular FaceTime usage? FaceTime is a great service, but if it will save me money to use it on WiFi and another service on 3G, then I’m obviously going to do that instead of paying the monopolistic carriers any more money.

What will you do if AT&T (or your own iPhone-carrying carrier) decides to make you pay for cellular FaceTime access?

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Calob Horton

Calob Horton is an associate editor at Pocketables. He loves all technology, no matter which company it comes from. This unbiased view of the tech world allows him to choose the products that best fit his personal needs and tastes: a Microsoft Surface Pro, a Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and a third-gen iPad.Google+ | Twitter | More posts by Calob | Subscribe to Calob's posts

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5 thoughts on “Would you pay for FaceTime over 3G?

  • Avatar of Frank
    July 17, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    Plenty of people would pay for it out of sheet ignorance, monetizing ignorance is at the core of Apple’s business strategy. :p (some would call it good marketing) Other platforms (and iOS apps) have been featuring free video chat over 3G for a whole year now tho, if AT&T goes down that route and Skype/Google or other carriers don’t beat them over the head for it with counter-marketing I’d be verydisappointed. I’d also be shocked if Apple allows this on sone US carrier while the rest do it for free. It’d be very bad for their image of a carrier influence-free OS build.

  • Avatar of singh
    July 18, 2012 at 12:21 am

    Nope, Video chatting is something I consider as a free time thing. I usually only have free time at my home fortified with WiFi, so no need for 3G Face time

  • Avatar of John Freml
    July 18, 2012 at 6:26 am

    This would only make sense if the data used by Facetime did not affect your monthly limit. Perhaps this is what AT&T has in mind, since they’ve hinted at services like that in the past… maybe they will even offer 2 options: pay a fee per month and have it not affect your data allowance, or pay nothing and have it deduct from your bucket.

  • Avatar of Paul E King
    July 18, 2012 at 6:32 am

    It’s 2012. Video chat over 3G has been around for 3 or 4 years now? AT&T has been doing as much in their power as possible to kill it.

    Having used it a few times, I do not think the majority of people are going to lemming-like run to video chatting and destroy the 3G network of AT&T.

    I have a feeling there will be about 2 out of every 100 people who like to use it to show someone else live video of their cat. Not a big whoop. Also, these calls probably are going to be made during non-business hours so… not a hell of a lot of stress on the network.

    For all the evils of Sprint, still I’m glad I’m not with AT&T.


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