Smartphones and tablets contribute to explosive growth of video chat this holiday season

Many consumers will be using new electronic devices to connect face to face with family and friends as the popularity of smartphones and tablet computers with front- and rear-facing cameras is expected to drive much of the growth of video chat over the holidays.

Half of all Black Friday shoppers bought electronic gadgets this year with smartphones and tablets among the most popular electronic purchases, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. Many consumers are using these mobile devices to video chat with family and friends in different locations and on multiple platforms.

“I had an excellent experience with ooVoo video chat at the annual name drawing for our family gift exchange this year,” says Nick Wenos, a video chat user from Madison, Wis. “We had 13 family members in six different locations, using a mix of PCs, Macs, Android and Apple devices, to see each other in real time with great video and audio quality. It really worked out awesome.”

High travel costs and busy work schedules will make it increasingly difficult for people to make it home to see their families this year, but a growing number are using video chat on mobile devices, laptops and desktop computers to communicate face to face. To help families stay connected, ooVoo recently announced free group calling for up to six people. Visit for information on how to use video chat on the Web, desktop and mobile devices including smartphones and new tablet computers with built-in cameras designed for high-quality video calls.

The most recent forecast by the CEA estimated total shipments of tablet computers at 26.5 million units by year end 2011, a 157 percent increase over 2010. Industry experts have referred to tablet computers as “giant smartphones” that make live video communication around the holidays a better alternative to texting, email and even traditional phone calls.

“This year I decided to go high-tech with parents, brothers and sisters, spouses and kids from four different cities across the country together on a video call,” says Wenos. “I’m happy to say we liked it so much that we’re going to start meeting up face to face on Sunday nights. ”

Consumer survey results among ooVoo users showed that video callers during the holiday season like to:

* Swap stories (70 percent)

* Open gifts together (59 percent)

* Count down to the New Year with friends and family (48 percent)

* Sing holiday songs (23 percent)

* Prepare a meal together (20 percent)

Video chat also becomes part of the holiday experience when pet owners want to introduce a new puppy or kitten to family and friends, or brides-to-be use video technology to show off a new engagement ring. In addition to live video conversations, ooVoo allows users to record and send holiday greetings to anyone with an email account through video call recording.

And finally, don’t forget your manners while using video chat, and consider these etiquette tips:

* Check your audio and video settings before you start the call.

* Have everything you need close by so the person on the other end is not left with a blank screen.

* Ask permission if you want to record the video chat. Privacy is expected until consent is given otherwise.

* Have fun and be yourself. Enjoy the experience of connecting with family and friends during the holidays and the new year.