How to video chat on your Android smartphone using GTalk

by Robert Nazarian on
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This is for the beginners, but actually a lot of you could use this because I think a lot of people forget that most of us already have built-in video chatting through the GTalk application. Google actually added this feature about a year ago in Android 2.3.4. At that time there weren’t a lot of phones on that version, let alone had a front-facing camera, so I think a lot of people just forgot about it. As of the time of this writing about 60% of Android devices have Android 2.3.4 or better, not to mention just about every new phone in the market will have video chat capabilities. There are plenty of apps that enable you to video chat, but GTalk is by far the quickest and easiest way to get started assuming you have a front facing camera and Gingerbread 2.3.4 or above. GTalk video chat works via WiFi, 3G, or 4G, but some carriers put restrictions and limit you to only WiFi. I will show you an easy workaround below. Hit the break to get started.

GTalk

1) If you’re already familiar with the GTalk application for text chatting, then skip to #4, otherwise find the GTalk application on your phone or tablet. It may already be on one of your home screens, but most likely in your app drawer. The icon looks like this:

2. Tap on it to open and you will land on the main screen. By opening the app you are automatically logged in. The screen looks something like this (both Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich versions):

 Gingerbread

Ice Cream Sandwich

For those that don’t utilize the status message, their email will show up. As you can see, I hid them.

#3 You may not have any contacts listed under your name so you need to add some. The only stipulation here is the user must have a Gmail account. If you’re running Gingerbread, just hit the menu and you will see the option to add a user:

If you’re running Honeycomb or Ice Cream Sandwich, you don’t have to hit the menu. There is already a contact icon with a plus sign at the top. I circled it below:

All you have to do is type in the Gmail email address and it will send an invitation to the other user. Once they accept, they will be part of your contacts list just like what I have. One other added benefit for Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich is that you can use multiple Gmail accounts. In other words, if you have more than one Gmail account on your device, you can use either one of them for both texting and video chatting. In Gingerbread, you can ONLY use your main Gmail account, the one associated with Play Store purchases.

#4. Now it’s time for video chatting. Before I get into that, if you aren’t familiar with GTalk, you can actually use it for text messaging as well. All you have to do is tap the user you want to text with and you’re good to go. Chat transcripts are automatically saved to your Gmail account.

For video chatting, all you have to do is it tap the video camera icon next to the user you want to video chat with and it will send them an invitation. Once they accept, you will see them and they will see you. You can even chat with people that are on their desktop (as long as they have a webcam).

#5. Here’s what the screen looks like. The bigger picture is whom your chatting with and the small picture is you and what they see on their device.

#6. There are some things you can do while chatting. For example if you tap the screen a menu will pop up. In Gingerbread it will be at the top left, In Honeycomb it will be on the top right side, and in Ice Cream Sandwich it will be at the bottom.

Gingerbread

Honeycomb

Ice Cream Sandwich

For Gingerbread, at the top left is the chat icon, which lets you switch to the texting session. You can go back to video by hitting the camera icon in the top right. To the right is the sound for toggling mute on or off. If you toggle it off, the other user won’t be able to hear anything you’re saying. To the right of that is your toggle for the front and rear camera. The default is your front-facing camera, but you can tap it to switch to your rear camera and vice verse. You will also notice an “X” at the top right. This is for ending your session. This mini menu will disappear after a few seconds if you don’t do anything.

For Honeycomb, the top right “X” is to close your session. Below that is your toggle for muting. The next one down is to enter texting mode, and finally below that is your toggle for the front and rear camera.

For Ice Cream Sandwich, you get a lot more features. For starters, at the top right is an “X” for closing your session. At the bottom left is the same toggle for mute on or off. To the right is the toggle to change your sound output to your choice of either your device speaker, wired headphones, handset earpiece, or Bluetooth headset/speaker. The default is your device speaker. Just tap the icon and make your choice by tapping again. To the right of that is the toggle for the front and rear camera. Again, the default is the front camera, but you can tap it to switch to the rear camera and vice verse. The last icon, which is at the bottom right will swap the small screen and the big screen. It will also bring up another sub menu at the bottom (shown below).

The hand icon lets you choose image stabilization. Just tap it and you will have your choice of either low, medium, or high. If you’re walking while chatting, you might want to switch it to the medium or high setting. In the middle is the silly faces icon. Tap that and you will have your choice of 6 silly face effects to apply to your face. There is squeeze, big eyes, big mouth, small mouth, big nose, and small eyes. Pictured below is big eyes and squeeze.

Lastly, and in the right corner, is background replacement. Tap it and you will have four choices: in space, sunset, disco, and pick from gallery. Once you select one, it will tell you to put your device on a flat surface and get out of the picture. After a few seconds the background will show up and then you can go back in front of the camera. Unfortunately it only works well if you don’t move your device. Pictured below is in space and sunset.

Workaround for mobile carrier blocking 3G/4G connectivity

If you find that your mobile carrier isn’t allowing you to video chat via their network, you can grab Vtok from the Google Play Store. It is essentially another version of GTalk that allows you to do video or voice calls to other Gtalk users as well as other Vtok users. Since it’s a third party app, the carriers cannot block it from working over their network. All you have to do is log in using your gmail address and password and the rest is pretty simple and straight forward.

Connecting with your friends on iOS – iPhones and iPads

If you have friends that own an iPhone or iPad, you can still chat with them. All they have to do is download Vtok from the Apple App Store (the same app listed above, but for iOS). Vtok for iOS works the same way as the Android version, giving them the ability to video and voice chat using their Gmail account, but also gives them the ability to text chat.

There are still other methods for you to video chat on your Android phone, but GTalk is the quickest and easiest way to get started. Below are some of the more popular methods.

If you need to video chat with more people (group chatting), you can utilize Google+ hangouts, but a lot of people don’t have a Google+ account, so you may find that to be an uphill battle. If you do have friends with Google+, you can video chat with up to nine people so it’s really cool. We may do a guide on that one at a later time, but I suspect the majority of people really only want to video chat with one other person at a time.

There are a few other apps you can also try like Skype, ooVoo, Fring, and Tango. Skype is the more known brand as a lot of people have used it on their desktops or laptops over the years. One advantage is that you don’t need a Gmail account, but you might not get it to work on your phone or tablet. The other three became popular when there really wasn’t an alternative for Android devices.

So there you have it. I highly recommend using GTalk whenever possible, but if you have a lot of friends on Skype, you can certainly give that one a try as well.

» See more articles by Robert Nazarian


  • http://2ndskiesforex.com/ Rona Schleier

    That is cool….to be able to video chat using your smartphone.

  • zinnia

    I have a Samsung wonder mobile…no video chatting option in there…all icons appear green circle not green camera..even if the other person has a webcam..and can video chat..plz help

  • Nels

    backgrouund setting not working for me, wierd, with samsung galaxy s 3

  • skss@gmail.com

    effects option disappear after 1st use. what could be wrong?

  • Maximillian Frenky Tan

    I couldn’t make it work on background replacement. Does my S3 have bug?

  • nikola

    can the default sound output be changed to handset earpiece instead of the device speaker?

  • hamfest

    I have two gmail accounts, one for business and one for personal. It always logs in as my business account, how can I get it to log in on personal?

  • http://twitter.com/nikkied76 nikki diane

    hmmm I can’t seem to find google talk on google play is it discontinued ?

  • http://twitter.com/nikkied76 nikki diane

    hmmm I can’t seem to find google talk on google play is it discontinued ?

  • mhem

    my talk does not have video icons…only green dots?..help plz

  • Wildest_Jean

    I also have Android OS v2.3.4 and never see any “camera” option anywhere in gtalk. Chat is fine. Video doesn’t exist.

  • Sincity

    My contacts do not have a camera icon only the dot (green/gray) is there something I need to load on my HTC EVO to be able to view the cameras as their status bar instead of just the dots. Not sure if I have Gingerbread nor Ice Cream loaded on this phone

  • WessN

    I see no video icons! What do I need to do to get them?

  • anon.

    I cant change the chat account.

    If this remains the case, Google is going to loose out to Lumia. I mean a smartphone doesn’t even have a proper voip app….