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Video Calling on the iPhone 4, Windows 7 Upgrade and Android Apps

Q:

I marvel at the FaceTime video-calling feature on the new iPhone 4. Is this the only cellphone with this feature?

mossmail

The FaceTime video-calling feature on the iPhone 4

A:

No. Some other phones have it, most recently the HTC EVO 4G from Sprint (S) and, soon, the Samsung Epic 4G, also from Sprint. But, in my view, Apple’s implementation is much smoother. Instead of requiring you to run an app, set up an account, or have a special user name, on the iPhone 4 video calling is integrated right into the phone-calling and contacts features. You merely have to tap on a camera icon to turn a regular voice call into a video call, or you can initiate a FaceTime call by tapping a button in a contact listing.

The two downsides of FaceTime are that, at the moment, it only works over Wi-Fi and it only works between two iPhone 4s. Apple (AAPL) says, however, it has made the necessary software open source, so others can adopt it, and claims that millions of devices will be compatible eventually.

Q:

I am running a two-year-old H-P PC with 3 gigabytes of memory. I use Vista Home Premium and only occasionally detect system slowness necessitating a reboot. Is an upgrade to Windows 7 really going to speed up my computer performance? Also, I assume that an upgrade from Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Home Premium can be done without a clean install, correct?

A:

If you are happy with the performance of Vista, I wouldn’t go through the expense and time of an upgrade.

However, based on extensive testing and continued regular use, I believe strongly that Windows 7 is noticeably faster than Vista, with fewer delays during daily use and faster booting and rebooting. And, yes, you can do the upgrade you describe right over your current Vista installation—provided you aren’t trying to switch to a 64-bit version of the operating system from 32-bit, or vice versa. You can find Microsoft’s (MSFT) official chart of the various upgrade paths to Windows 7 at http://bit.ly/pbStQ.

Q:

Could you please speak to the warnings on the Android phones that one receives when downloading an app? Some of the warnings suggest worrisome intrusions. For example, one I saw warns that it “Intercepts outgoing calls, formats external storage, creates Bluetooth connections, edits SMS or MMS, reads and writes contact history” etc. Are these malicious functions or am I over-reading the implications?

A:

In Google’s Android Market, unlike in Apple’s App Store, apps aren’t “curated” in advance—that is, they aren’t screened before being made available. To help compensate, Google (GOOG) requires a page of such warnings with each app. In most cases, these warnings don’t indicate any malicious intent on the part of the app creator, merely a list of the data and functions the app will need to access on the phone.

However, in a non-curated environment, there is a greater chance that malicious software will slip through and use this access for illegitimate purposes. On the other hand, there were a number of cases where Apple’s curated model wound up barring harmless apps under rules that weren’t well understood. Those apps would almost surely have made it into the Android market.

You can find Mossberg’s Mailbox, and my other columns at the All Things Digital website, http://walt.allthingsd.com.

Write to Walter S. Mossberg at walt.mossberg@wsj.com


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