Given all the hype from Apple's iPhone 4 launch around the introduction of FaceTime, you'd be forgiven for thinking that video calling on mobile phones was actually a new thing. But the truth is that, in Australia at least, video calling has been around since Hutchison Telecoms launched the Three network over here in 2003.
The first mobile phone video call in Australia happened on April 15, 2003, between NSW Premier Bob Carr and Victorian Premier Steve Bracks. Knowing Australian politicians, they probably made some kind of a sporting joke to make it seem like they're actually human, when really they're blood sucking vampires. But I digress...
Unlike Apple's FaceTime, the call itself used the brand new Three 3G network. Sure, resolution was average, but that was more the quality of the cameras in the phones than the network.
Having a quick look back at T3 Magazine's coverage of the launch, some of the handset highlights included the NEC E606, which boasted 32 whole megabytes of built-in memory yet still let you make video calls over 3G; and the Motorola A920, which was not only one of the first mobile phones I ever reviewed, but also one of the hardest to like. But it did video calls over 3G, something FaceTime won't do at launch. It was even easy to do, with most early phones on Three having a dedicated video call button.
Three boast that over the first three years after that first 3G video call in 2003, their customers made 10 million video calls, with huge spikes around Christmas and New Years periods.
Today, you can still make video calls over 3's 3G network, provided you have a capable handset. It's not something you're likely to use, and definitely not something you're likely to see out in public at all but Apple's claims that "No other phone makes staying in touch this much fun" are a bit over the top.
[Image source: T3 Magazine, April 2003]