So far, most of the focus on WebRTC has centred around desktop, with mobile devices taking somewhat of a backseat. There’s little doubt that the future of WebRTC lies with mobile, so why haven’t we seen more compatibility across android and iOS devices?
Well, for one, developing WebRTC technology on mobile devices is challenging and there are quite a few elements that need to be considered. This post will look at where WebRTC currently fits into the mobile spectrum and what the future holds for real-time communications on mobile.
The Current Challenges that WebRTC Developers Face with Mobile
Before the development of WebRTC, implementing real-time voice and video on mobile devices was fairly complicated. Voice and video codec licenses were required, devices needed tuning to reduce acoustic echo, advanced chipset work was required and a significant amount of bandwidth management was also necessary.
However, with the WebRTC revolution comes a new set of challenges for developers. First of all, there’s the issue of browsers. At the moment, WebRTC is available on Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Android but isn’t as widely available for iOS. And then there’s the challenge of developing a reliable, user-friendly application using a Software Development Kit (SDK) that supports higher level APIs on a recognised platform like TokBox, Tropo or Temasys.
As WebRTC becomes more compatible across mobile devices, developers will also need to consider how older models will support the technology, particularly with hybrid applications that make use of the WebView browser component. Until recently, android didn’t support WebView, so it’ll take time for developers to integrate it into older android versions. Not to mention that at the moment, WebView doesn’t support WebRTC in iOS.
What WebRTC Mobile Solutions are Already Available?
Although still in the early stages, there is a mobile WebRTC solution out there in the form of Bowser, a WebRTC-enabled browser for mobile devices, developed by Ericsson Research. By the developer’s own admission, Bowser is an experimental platform and very much still in its beta stage. It’s currently available on iOS and Android and enables web developers to add real-time audio and video to their web applications, enabling instant communication with another device. The video below shows Bowser in action:
Bowser was first released in 2012 and at the time, it was the world’s first WebRTC-enabled browser for mobile devices. After retiring the platform later that same year, in 2014, Ericsson made it available once again, encouraging other developers to get involved through their WebRTC research project, hosted on GitHub.
The Future of WebRTC and Mobile
So, what does the future hold for WebRTC and mobile? Well, it’s safe to say that there is huge potential for WebRTC to be used across mobile platforms but we may have to wait a few years until the concept is fully realised.
There isn’t a whole lot of information out there about WebRTC and mobile, which perhaps gives us an indication of the current public demand for web-based real-time communications via mobile devices.