Smartphone Users Adopt Video Calling, Especially Among the Young

Video calling uptake is slanted toward early adopters but shows encouraging signs of expansion across all consumer segments, the report noted.

smartphones and video calling

Video calling is growing into a key mainstream activity on smartphones, with high adoption rates in some markets, according to the findings of a Gartner survey of 6,500 U.S. and German consumers.

The study showed adoption is markedly skewed toward the younger demographic, with video calling in the 18 to 24 age group reaching 53.5 percent in the United States and 30 percent in Germany.

Video calling uptake is slanted toward early adopters but shows encouraging signs of expansion across all consumer segments, the report noted.

"Clearly, proliferation of LTE and broader coverage of free WiFi will drive adoption; however, especially in emerging markets, we are expecting additional drivers," Werner Goertz, research director at Gartner, told eWEEK. "An additional driver includes improved user experience as a result of next-generation compression—H.265 delivers better picture quality, lower bandwidth requirements and less power consumption, without major BOM [bill of materials] cost impact."

Goertz noted consumers can also expect to see providers of apps and services integrating interactive video as a feature and a source of monetizing their services, such as home automation and video surveillance, as well as the integration of interactive video in other device form factors, such as wrist-worn devices and head-mounted displays, adding augmented reality features.

The study also revealed more than 50 million adult smartphone users in the United States (about 35 percent of the total surveyed) use their smartphones for video calling—a number that the report said is likely to exceed 60 million people when those ages 17 and younger are included.

In Germany, more than 8 million adult smartphone users (about 20 percent) employ their devices for video calling, a figure more likely to exceed 10 million when those ages 17 and younger are included.

Although its adoption of video calling lags behind the United States, Gartner chose Germany as a European alternative market to study due to its high usage among the younger adults, suggesting a wider uptake in coming years.

The firm defines video calling as person-to-person communication using a video application such as Apple's FaceTime, Skype or Google Hangouts.

Although the consumer survey did not provide data on quality of service or user satisfaction, users typically articulate certain complaints, including dropped video calls on cellular networks, poor screen resolution and poor audio as a result of microphone placement, he said.

Other issues include lower-res front-facing cameras in comparison to higher-res back-facing cameras, and distortions and latency due to compression algorithms, while video calling also eats into metered mobile data budgets.

"Business video calling is skewed toward other device form factors, specifically the corporate laptop," he explained. "Professional users tend to participate in one-to-many conference calls."

Goertz said this would change with bring-your-own-device (BYOD) adoption of a broader range of devices and form factors, but explained video calling on the smartphone is still geared toward personal calls.