T-Mobile customers with one of Samsung's newer Android-powered smartphones can now make video calls right from the handset's dialer.
While video calling is widely available through third-party apps, the carrier said Thursday that its customers with the Galaxy Note 5 or Galaxy S6 Edge+ will be able to use T-Mobile Video Calling to make and receive video calls without having to choose and download someone else's app. However, the native feature -- an app built in to the handset -- is limited to T-Mobile customers who can accept video calls.
"On devices with T-Mobile Video Calling, small camera icons appear next to contacts with devices able to receive video calls," Neville Ray, T-Mobile's chief technology officer, wrote in a blog post announcing the feature. "If the person you're calling can't take video calls, the video call icon is greyed out."
Verizon, the nation's largest carrier, also offers a built-in video calling feature for some devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Galaxy Note 5.
T-Mobile, the nation's third-largest wireless carrier, hopes to set itself apart by integrating features that are already popular with smartphone users of popular third-party apps like WhatsApp and Viber. In a similar move last month, T-Mobile introduced Advanced Messaging, which more closely aligns text messaging with popular third-party instant messaging apps.
While tech companies like Facebook, Skype and Snapchat have been rolling out cool new communications features and functions, US wireless operators have made few advances in the native messaging and calling technology that comes built in to most phones, said T-Mobile spokeswoman Stephenie Hanschka.
"It makes sense to build technology that customers have gotten used to -- like real time chat and video -- into the native calling experience," she said.
As with other video calling services, T-Mobile Video Calling counts against a customer's monthly data allotment. Customers with compatible Galaxy phones can make video calls on any available LTE connection as well as over Wi-Fi, according to T-Mobile.
The feature will make its way to the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge in an update next week. By the end of the year, three more Video Calling-enabled devices will be available, for a total of seven, according to Ray. While it's not yet available on the iPhone, T-Mobile said it hopes Apple will incorporate the new phone features as well.