iPhone has More WebRTC than Any Other Smartphone

March 2, 2015

What can I say? The iPhone is THE WebRTC smartphone.

It is funny how reality and our belief of reality are two different things. At times, so different they share nothing in common. Such is the case for WebRTC on iOS.

iPhones pile

Every other conversation I have with someone about WebRTC, gravitates towards where is WebRTC supported. We mention Internet Explorer and then Apple and its iPhone. The question usually being “can I use WebRTC on an iPhone?”

The answer usually is yes and no. Or its complicated.

Want to run WebRTC on anything? Check out my free WebRTC Device Cheat Sheet.

So let’s simplify it for everyone a bit.

Let’s look at a few of the latest mobile application launches. Ones using WebRTC.

Talko is a vendor I’ve discussed here more than once. There’s an interview with Talko here as well. They rely heavily on WebRTC as a technology. They use it today only on mobile, while they do plan on expanding towards the web browser at some point. Oh – and they are available only on iOS. Not on Android. On iOS. That platform that has no WebRTC support.

Wire is another vendor that got in. I covered it in part on my post about reinventing communications. Unlike Talko, who focus on voice communications, Wire is all about video. When Wire launched, it was iOS only. Today, it also supports Android and Mac OS X. Next up are Windows and the browser. Wire uses WebRTC to get things done, which shouldn’t surprise anyone at this point. Wire is a mobile first, iOS first type of a service (just like Talko).

Dupl is one more vendor that makes use of WebRTC. I found out about it from Martin Geddes‘ newsletter. You can find Dupl here. They are not much different from Wire if you ask me, even if Wire is voice only at the moment and Dupl offers video chats. While I haven’t tried either of them, they both gravitate around a better video consumer calling experience. They both use WebRTC. And they both started on iOS. Dupl is available only on iOS at the moment.

appear.in, Gruveo, Talky.io and others are all started with a web service and added an iOS application. None of them has an Android application. They might add it in the future. They might not. I call this approach the Agile Hybrid one:

Where Android support relies on Chrome browser being available and iOS is achieved via an app.

Why is this important?

  • While people are focused on WebRTC inside the browser, iOS has been quite accommodating for it – without any browser support
  • Most communication consumption happening on mobile is through an app, so browser support is irrelevant to many
  • Getting WebRTC on iOS is becoming easier with each passing month, due to enhanced support provided by Google and many valuable resources available from the larger community
  • There are more than a single way to get started with WebRTC on iOS. Different alternatives are good for different scenarios
  • There are more WebRTC apps running on iOS than there are running on Android

Thinking of tackling the challenge of getting WebRTC to run on an iOS device? Check out my recent report about WebRTC Adoption in Mobile Apps if you are looking to reduce your risks and understand more about your alternatives.

[UPDATE] There was a mistake with the initial post. Wire doesn’t support video calling. That has been amended in the explanation of Wire and Dupl, which referred to Wire.

Need to know where WebRTC is available? Download this free WebRTC Device Cheat Sheet.

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    1. Amir,

      Thanks for mentioning this. It is indeed the case, though I haven’t seen any real life example (outside of Ericsson) who makes use of OpenWebRTC for their iOS project. I am sure a few will show up in the coming months.

  1. Well if its that easy, and everyone is doing it. Why is it so damn difficult to find a blog post, tutorials or something that explains how implement this? You say it getting easier as the days pass. but maybe the correct word is.. Its getting less hard. Because there is no simple way to do it, just hacky wacky tricks that only experts know. Also Apple announced that in the near future they will only accept 64bit apps. and apparently no iOS implementation for WebRTC .. like OpenWebRTC are supporting stable 64bit.

    BTW if you know a good tutorial please paste it here. Thanks

  2. Guys,

    WebRTC is out there to free you up from installing any app on any computer or smartphone or tablet, etc. Why should I be a specialist and install an app for each type of WebRTC session I want to use? Really I don’t see the point.

    From my browser I can ‘talk’ to 3CX Phone System, with Appear.In, with OpenWebRTC, etc. I don’t need an app for that. I don’t need an account in the first place to install the app on the device. I can do it from any device even if it’s not mine, connected to almost any network. I’m FREE!!!

    So, again I’m asking: WHY AN APP!!!???!!!

    1. Sebastian,

      First of all, you can’t really use WebRTC on an iOS browser (I am ignoring browsers with less than 1M downloads here), so your point is moot.

      There’s also this minor issue of consumption patterns of users – they end up using apps and not the browser anyway, so you might as well have presence in an app.

      1. I think that’s his point. Why doesn’t iOS Safari support WebRTC? I don’t want to have to create a separate app for each new platform that comes along – I want those platforms to implement a standard. That standard should be by way of JavaScript.

        1. With or without WebRTC, development on mobile is still predominantly native in nature. While Webviews and JavaScript are used, there are those that would say they are still inferior in many ways today.

          I do understand the desire to have a single language to use, but that is already achievable using PhoneGap or Xamarin and a WebRTC plugin to one of them.

          1. It’s a very broad generalisation to say that development on mobile is predominantly native in nature. It completely depends on what you’re building. A video chatting system that integrates into a dating site for instance. If WebRTC was available on iOS Safari you’d be stupid to create a separate App.

            The only reason you’d need to is because Apple refuses to support standards that the rest of the market has embraced. Our response to this should not be “just build an App”, it should be an appeal to Apple to add this support.

  3. I think a better question is “Can a user use web-rtc on an iPhone?” and the answer is, not without installing an app for each service they want to use. Unfortunately web-rtc brings the open web closer to native apps in terms of functionality and Apple walled garden app store will become irrelevant resulting in huge loss of revenue. Also products like facetime currently used for customer retainment will also become irrelevant. So it’s safe to say that this won’t be happening anytime soon.

    1. Chris,

      That’s quite a leap of faith to assume WebRTC can change behavior of people shifting them away from apps to the web. I can’t see it happening – with or without wider adoption of WebRTC by browser and mobile OS vendors.

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