iOS devices would seem to be tailor-made for using with video conferencing equipment. But trying to find a solution that works well, without buying onto an entire ecosystem, has been difficult. But it’s a bit easier now if you have an iPad 2 or 3, or an iPhone 4S. Polycom has recently updated their iPhone and iPad RealPresence apps (free) in the iTunes app store.
The apps were initially designed to interface with Polycom’s “RealPresence” video conferencing infrastructure (which is a whole system for managing video conferencing). When it first came out, the iPad app let you just enter an IP address for either a SIP of H.323 video conferencing device – sort of like calling a phone – and have a video conference. I used mine this way at work with the Windows version of the Polycom software, which can also be used without the entire infrastructure portion.
The iPad app then, after one of the upgrades, started asking for a username/password combo for the infrastructure, and would not let you at the controls for making or answering a call. I assumed it would no longer connect and started looking for alternatives. Then for some reason one day I just put in a valid email address and a password – and the password portion of the screen disappeared, granting access to the controls. So it was still usable in non-infrastructure mode.
Also along the way, Polycom introduced the iPhone version of the app. The system requirements specify the iPhone 4S only. And when you brought it up, it asked for a username, password, and infrastructure server. Just entering values did not make that portion of the screen go away like on the iPad version. If you check out the comments, you may see the numerous anger comments about how the app is pretty useless.
That’s true if you haven’t bought into the (not inexpensive) infrastructure – or was until recently. Polycom has changed both apps to work alike – they start with a “Sign in” link and one to bypass the sign in. Bypassing gets you to the controls, where you can make a call. I am able to call the Polycom software on Windows and my iOS devices from each other. It didn’t work over 3G, but only because I got non-public 10-based addresses – so my devices couldn’t find each other.
These are the best SIP and H.323 video conferencing apps I’ve used – I’ve tried others, and they were slow and buggy. I would have paid a modest fee for these Polycom apps – they are very polished and work well.