Up until now, Apple’s FaceTime video chat feature on iOS devices has been restricted to Wi-Fi only. That’s changing with iOS 6, which finally offers the ability to use FaceTime over cellular.
But, almost inevitably, it looks like AT&T isn’t prepared to give its users FaceTime over cellular for free. Instead, the carrier appears to be planning to control and charge extra for the feature, similar to how it charges extra to use the iPhone’s personal hotspot feature, 9to5Mac reports.
When trying to enable FaceTime over cellular in the latest version of the iOS 6 beta, the site received an error asking it to contact AT&T to enable the feature. Specifically, the error appears for developers who restore their network settings in iOS 6 beta 3, or restore their phone from that beta. (I’ve talked to several developers who have enabled the feature without an issue, but they simply upgraded from the previous iOS 6 beta without restoring any settings.)
In a statement, AT&T told 9to5Mac, “We’re working closely with Apple on the new developer build of iOS 6 and we’ll share more information with our customers as it becomes available.”
If the report ends up being accurate, it would be disappointing for users who were expecting to use FaceTime over AT&T’s LTE 4G network with the next iPhone or the new iPad. AT&T users on 3G likely won’t be missing much, since that network is generally too slow to support high-quality video chat, but LTE 4G users may feel cheated after already paying more for faster network speeds.
It’s currently unclear how other carriers plan to handle the FaceTime-over-cellular feature, but I wouldn’t be surprised if others follow AT&T’s plan. (Sprint will likely keep the feature free, but as is typical of Sprint’s consumer-friendly initiatives, nobody will care.)