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Using Mobile 3G/4G WiFi for iPhone 4 FaceTime Video Calls

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Thursday, 24 June 2010

Using Mobile 3G/4G WiFi for iPhone 4 FaceTime Video Calls


iPhone 4 users can make FaceTime calls by clicking "FaceTime" on their contact's page (left); you can also switch a voice call into a FaceTime call while a call is in progress (right)

As much as we would like to solve truly important problems like the BP oil crisis in the Gulf, we can't - but we can solve the riddle of making the FaceTime video chat feature on the new iPhone 4 work on the go!

Unless you're an Apple mega-fan, you may be wondering like many others, "What is Facetime?" FaceTime is one of the new and highly-anticipated features included on Apple’s iPhone 4 that allows iPhone 4 users to video chat with other iPhone 4 users over WiFi. As Apple says, "People have been dreaming about video calling for decades. iPhone 4 makes it a reality. With the tap of a button!" FaceTime really is that easy to use, and works right out of the box as promised. Also, since the iPhone 4 has two cameras (one on the front of the phone and a higher-res one on the back), FaceTime users can either show their face with the front camera or switch to the rear camera to show off the world around them. And like just about everything else on the iPhone, FaceTime works in both portrait and landscape modes.

There are definitely a lot of great potential uses for FaceTime, and Apple makes it very easy to use. To start a video chat with another iPhone 4 user, all you need to do is find him or her in your contacts list and tap the FaceTime button. You can even convert a voice call into a video call if you're already on the phone. The only downfall to FaceTime is that it only works over WiFi - you CANNOT use Facetime while your phone is connected to AT&T's 3G network. This isn't an issue if you want to make video calls at home or at the office where you have a WiFi network set up, but what about folks who want to use it while traveling? Here at EVDOinfo/3Gstore, we understand that people want to be mobile with their mobile devices, and we have a number of solutions that allow you to use FaceTime while you're on the go!

You can't get around the fact that FaceTime requires a WiFi connection, but that doesn't mean you can only use it with traditional WiFi networks like your home network or a public hotspot at McDonalds or Starbucks. Check out this video demonstration of two 3Gstore employees engaged in a FaceTime video chat - Mike's phone is connected to a traditional broadband WiFi connection, and Victor is using a 3G/4G OverDrive mobile hotspot:

Below is a list of our recommendations for MOBILE WiFi that you can take with you wherever you roam - these solutions all allow you to connect any WiFi-enabled device, including your iPhone 4, to mobile WiFi:


1.  Sprint Overdrive 3G/4G hotspot (left):

The Sierra Overdrive is an all-in-one battery-powered 3G/4G mobile hotspot available from Sprint that provides mobile broadband connectivity to up to 5 users via WiFi, with a WiFi range of up to around 150'. When you're in a 4G area the Overdrive will automatically connect to that network, and if you travel outside a 4G area, you'll be able to connect to Sprint's 3G network - so you'll have coverage virtually everywhere you travel within the US (you can check Sprint 3G and 4G coverage by address or zip code at 3Gstore.com/coverage).

Sprint's 4G network is VERY fast (average download speeds of 3 to 6 Mbps with bursts over 10 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 1Mbps), allowing for excellent quality for video calls. Video calls made over 3G may not be as high quality (or there may be a bit of latency), but with a solid signal 3G FaceTime calls can work great! Our 3Gstore testers tried using FaceTime with their iPhone's to Sprint's 3G network and found the quality to be very good.

Sprint charges $59.99/month for their 3G/4G service, which includes unlimited 4G usage and 5GB/month of 3G usage. The Overdrive is available from 3Gstore for $49.99 after rebate with new Sprint service.

 

2.  Sprint or Verizon MiFi 3G Hotspot (Sprint version shown at right):

Both Sprint and Verizon offer the MiFi, which allows you to connect up to 5 devices via WiFi to the carrier's 3G network. Like the Overdrive, it's battery-powered, but it's even tinier - in fact, it's barely larger than the iPhone itself. The MiFi is only 3G-capable, but as mentioned above, with a solid signal 3G Facetime calls can work great. The MiFi is a great option for folks who want the smallest possible solution for mobile WiFi, and also for people who prefer to use Verizon's network (you can check both Sprint and Verizon coverage by address or zip code at 3Gstore.com/coverage). 

For folks concerned about the 5GB allowance Sprint and Verizon impose on 3G usage, FaceTime does not use as much data as one might think - about 140MB/hour, which is less data than a Skype video chat uses.

Both Sprint and Verizon offer their 3G service for $59.99/month for 5GB of usage. The Sprint MiFi is available from 3Gstore for free after rebate with new service; the Verizon MiFi is available from 3Gstore for $49.99 after rebate with new service.

3. PHS300 + Sprint U301 3G/4G Aircard (left)

This option isn't an all-in-one solution like the MiFi and Overdrive, but it's one of the most popular thanks to its flexibility. The Cradlepoint PHS300 is a portable mobile broadband router with a 2-3 hour rechargeable battery that allows you to connect your 3G or 4G aircard for internet access. You can use a wide variety of 3G or 3G/4G USB modems from a number of carriers with the PHS300, but the Sprint U301 3G/4G modem is a great choice since you can use Sprint's super-fast 4G network where available and their 3G network elsewhere (just like the Overdrive).

The PHS300 is a particularly good option for folks who already own a USB aircard and simply need a way to share the connection from their aircard via WiFi (instead of buying a whole new mobile broadband device, you can just add the PHS300 to your existing modem). Since the router can be used with so many different aircards, it also gives you more flexibility - if you're using a Verizon aircard right now but decide to switch to Sprint next year, you can still use the PHS300. It also doesn't have the 5-user limit like the MiFi and Overdrive do, so if you want to provide mobile WiFi to a lot of devices (your iPhone 4, laptop, Nintendo DS, etc etc) you won't have to worry about that. It's not as compact as the MiFi or Overdrive, but certainly more flexible.

The Cradlepoint PHS300 is available from 3Gstore for $149.99, and the U301 is available from 3Gstore for FREE (plus receive a $50 mail-in rebate) with new Sprint service.


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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 21 July 2010 )
 
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