Talking Your Tech: Video chat comes of age

— -- Has video chat come of age?

We posted that question here recently and heard back from you loud and clear: yes, yes, yes.

USA TODAY readers seriously love video chat and use it frequently, if not daily, thanks to simple tools like Skype and Apple's Face Time, which allows real-time video communications from iPhone, iPad and Mac computers.

Many people who own Android smartphones are turning to Tango, which is similar to Face Time (and also works with Apple products). Others are embracing Tout, a website and app that offers Twitter-like 15-second video updates from iPhone and Android phones, without having to bother with e-mailing attachments. With one click, the videos appear on phones and the Web.

Reader Elizabeth Schutte, who lives in the Netherlands, video chats with relatives in the U.S.

"When my son sees me talking to my phone, as opposed to talking on my phone, he comes running over calling for his cousin Addy," she writes in an e-mail. "For him it is the most normal act in the world. They have yet to meet in person, yet they see each other every week and really do know one another."

Here's more of what readers had to tell us about video chat.

It's bringing us closer

— Mark Bradford of Streetsboro, Ohio, reaches for the iPhone to check in with his kids who are away at college. "Even if it is for only a minute there is nothing like seeing their face and knowing they are okay."

— Rick Fimple lives in Las Vegas. His 12-year-old daughter is in Texas. "I can honestly say it has changed the way I communicate," he writes, via e-mail. "She would rarely pick up the phone , but she will pick up her iPod Touch and Face Time with me. Just to be able to see her face makes it seem like she is not that far away."

— "I live in Maryland and my granddaughter is in North Carolina," says Karl Berry, in a Skype chat with USA TODAY. "On Skype, we get instant reaction. I ask her how her day was in school, and she shows us her projects. I love it."

It's getting easier to use, and more reliable

— "I've been using (voice) Skype for years," said Christy Tillman of Manhattan Beach, Calif., in a video Tout. "This is just the next step. Another way to communicate with multiple friends at the same time."

— "Before Skype got their act together, my conversations with my wife and kids over a phone were not very fulfilling," says Kyle Snoke, who works in Africa for Upstream Oil. "Now that it is a reliable method of communicating it has helped ease some of the pain of being away."

It's a living documentary

"To me, it's like a personal journal," said Alex Dubois in a Tout. "I can look back and show my kids, this is my life. Photos are great, videos are better."


Skype: Free software, requires download. Can do free video chats computer to computer. Can also make video calls on smartphones via Skype's mobile app for iPhone and Android.

Google Hangouts: New feature of the Google Plus social network lets you do video chats with up to 10 people at a time. You can't initiate a Hangout on a mobile phone, but you can join in.

Facebook: Video chat — via Skype technology — has been added to the instant message window (look for the camera icon). To use, you first need to download a Skype plug-in, then you're good to go.

Apple's Face Time: The service is available across webcam-equipped Apple products — on Apple computers, the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch with updated software. For the mobile devices, it must be used over a Wi-Fi connection. To initiate a call, click the FaceTime icon on your device, open a contact and click their name.

Tango: A free app that brings video calling to the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android phones. Calls can be made via Wi-Fi or over cellular networks.

Tout: Offers 15-second Twitter-like video status updates that can be made on your computer (via a webcam) or iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad or Android phones. The posts can go directly to Facebook, Twitter or Tout's site and app.