updated 07:30 am EDT, Fri April 9, 2010
iChat reference in iPhone 4 hints video chat
A discovery in the iPhone 4.0 beta firmware may have helped confirm talk of a front-facing camera on a future iPhone model. Using either the iPhone app iStat or the external Activity Monitor development tool shows a reference to an "iChatAgent" process that normally only shows up on regular Macs. Since iPhone 4.0 doesn't have an iChat equivalent of its own as of the first beta, it's implied by TUAW that the process would be used for video chats.
Front video cameras are commonplace in Asian and European phones as the regions have had 3G for longer than North America and have had video calling as part of some of their cellular plans. Video calling has existed in Canada through Rogers' Vision service, but in the US only AT&T has offered such a service and has limited it to one-way sharing on a handful of non-smartphone devices. As such, it's unclear whether Apple would use any front camera for conventional video calling or solely as a component of instant messaging.
Video chat is heavily dependent on a fast upstream connection rate and may either signal support for faster 3G technologies like HSUPA or HSPA+, or else may simply require being on a Wi-Fi connection.