AT&T has long had a chip on its shoulder when it comes to video chat apps running on its network. It took a few years to enable Apple's solution, but Android users were stymied just last week when the new Hangouts app refused to connect to video calls over AT&T's 3G and 4G. The rationale the carrier is using to justify its decision is incredibly convoluted, to say the least. However, things are going to change in the second half of 2013.


AT&T makes a bizarre distinction between apps that are downloaded, and those that are included on the phone. Hangouts replaces Talk, so even though it's new to Google Play, AT&T considers it a pre-installed app. Any company with a pre-installed video chat app is required to get AT&T approval for its use over cellular connections because the carrier believes people are more likely to use them. Sound weird? Well, the new policy thankfully loosens restrictions.

For video chat apps that come pre-loaded on devices, we currently give all OS and device makers the ability for those apps to work over cellular for our customers who are on Mobile Share or Tiered plans. Apple, Samsung and BlackBerry have chosen to enable this for their pre-loaded video chat apps. And by mid-June, we’ll have enabled those apps over cellular for our unlimited plan customers who have LTE devices from those three manufacturers.

Throughout the second half of this year, we plan to enable pre-loaded video chat apps over cellular for all our customers, regardless of data plan or device; that work is expected to be complete by year end.

Today, all of our customers can use any mobile video chat app that they download from the Internet, such as Skype.

So the upshot of this change is that Hangouts video will work on Android by the end of the year, as will other video chat apps. Additionally, unlimited users will have the option to burn through bits doing video chats on approved devices sometime in June. It's not clear what hand, if any, Google had in this change.

[The Verge]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • http://www.jaxidian.org/update teh Jax

    AT&T is just being a dick here, I think.

  • Danny Holyoake

    Why do you Americans let carriers boss you around like this? If my carrier pulled this shit, I'd jump shit almost immediately.

    • Thomas

      To a carrier with similar dumb policies.

      I find it funny because i thought the argument was the reverse, i.e. it would only be allowed if it was preinstalled.

    • basteagow

      I loled @ jump shit.

      • QwietStorm


    • JG

      A.) I doubt you'll find a carrier that hasn't pulled a "If my carrier pulled this..." move

      B.) Most of us are locked into a 2 year contract. If we try to leave before then, there's a pricey Early Termination Fee... And also a potential pricey new phone purchase on the new carrier [AT&T and T-Mobile phones usually play fairly well on the other's network, but forget about using your old phone if your switching to/from Verizon and/or Sprint].

      C.) My grandfathered unlimited data is also doing a good job holding me back from switching myself... Though realistically I know I could get away with a 2GB plan, but I still like knowing I could stream Netflix 24/7 and not have any issue... That and while AT&T offers fairly comparable service in my area, Verizon's signal is a little better than theirs. If it were between being able to video chat on 3/4G or having excellent signal strength and essentially no dead-zones...

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000003999549 Mike Harris

        I don't understand how you got downvoted for giving a perfect answer. I'm in your same exact Verizon boat, btw.

      • Matthew Fry

        24/7 until they magically throttle you.

        • JG

          eh, it's still technically unlimited data even if/when it's throttled. I can still stream as much Netflix as I desire.... Just that I'll have to downgrade from HD to SD & sit through a few more buffering pauses after I use up my allotted 5GB of full speed connection...

  • http://www.twitter.com/Genjinaro Genjinaro

    For all of those times I've considered AT&T, I need to look back at BS like this.

  • Michael Kelley

    Another to add to the list of reasons I left AT&T and won't be returning

  • http://www.bordersweather.co.uk/ Andy J

    But..... surely preloaded apps are in /system and Hangouts will be not be /system - hence it is not a preloaded app? I'm fairly sure that this "restriction" is bullshit - if Facebook (preinstalled on pretty much every none AOSP phone) enabled video calls from it's app instead of via the Facebook Messenger app - would they suddenly start blocking video calls from Facebook - how is that going to win subscribers? " I could make a video call over AT&T via Facebook yesterday but today for some reason it says I'm not allowed :/ "

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/moneta.mace Mace Moneta

    AT&T: "We'll get around to supporting that, just as soon as we finish sharpening our stone axes and hitching the oxen. Get off our lawn you kids!"

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

    AT&T's assumption that they have any say in the matter at all is disgusting.

  • flosserelli

    Ginger in the checkered shirt: "AT&T is trolling all you bitches..."

  • WHO?

    AT&T has to be the worst carrier in history. Form Uverse to Cell they are starving for bandwidth. They been in the same boat for the last 10 yrs. Charge out rages prices and limit bandwidth on any product that uses it. SMH

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000003999549 Mike Harris

      LMAO at "out rages prices." Is that like "for all intensive purposes?"

  • duse

    1) AT&T shouldn't have any say in the matter at all and it's too bad Google played along with them. Why does it matter, AT&T, if your users have data caps anyway?

    2) Despite articles like this giving AT&T the bad press, Verizon is no better, or even worse. They might not have restrictions like this but that doesn't make them the good guys, they have removed all choice from their plans in the name of gouging every customer to the max for unnecessary service. The only way to maintain even the slightest bit of sanity in the American mobile market is to use T-Mobile or prepaid.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000003999549 Mike Harris

      I don't think you're gonna see too many people rushing to Verizon's defense (and I'm a Verizon customer who just won't leave them... but only because there are no better options).

      It's not that Verizon doesn't serve us the same shit sandwich as the other US carriers and expect us to like it. It's just that their turd has the most polish on it.

      • duse

        lol, great way to put it

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=506195779 Bryan Pizzuti

    This is why I prefer NOT to use pre-loaded apps. Luckily, Tango and Skype are almost never pre-loaded. :)

  • ltredbeard

    Does anyone know if you can use hangouts without G+ (talk still works if the app isn't updated)?

  • JG

    Kind of surprised.... Would have assumed they would welcome us using video chat apps.... I'm assuming they use a fair amount of bandwidth (especially if they can do HD). That would translate into users burning through their tiered data plans faster - and either upgrading to larger, more expensive plans or getting dinged with overage fees.... And another excuse to label more grandfathered unlimited users as "data hogs" & force them to "upgrade" to tiered (& more expensive) plans to avoid the negative labeling...

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000003999549 Mike Harris

      I know this might sound like I'm defending these carriers, but I really don't think they want you using ANY data. Sure, the overage charge is a nice little bonus to them, but the less data the customers use, the more they can justify packing people onto their network without improving speed and bandwidth.

      It's like inviting a bunch of anorexics to a buffet (except the food never goes bad). The overage charges are supposed to keep all the fat people away, while the regular customers just nibble at the food.

  • Craig M

    I had a hangout today with my folks over Tmobiles network. It worked great, I was very impressed.

    • luckbuckets

      Yeah, i did the same this morning, i was told it was nice and clear on their end from my Nexus 4 on t-mobile. and on my end it was well done as well.

  • Ryan Steddy

    Not to rub it in but I don't think this has or would ever happen in the UK, or elsewhere outside the US. I only just realised you have to have certain version of the phone just to change networks. Crazy!
    Hopefully the networks will learn and just let everyone get on with it soon.

  • Marco

    Funny they said they allow it currently for users with a mobile share plan.. I have 3 lines with a 6GB mobile share plane, however i still can't make calls via cellular only via wifi with HANGOUTS... AT&T = LIARS!!!!!!!!

  • mobilemann

    "that work is expected to be complete by year end."

    it's stupid easy to root and change one true to false. How is this work? How to they lie to peoples faces?

  • Matthew Fry

    So.... are they distinguishing it by the fact that it is in the system/app folder? If you're rooted on AT&T can you "enable" this yourself by moving it out of the system/app folder?