AT&T blocking Hangouts video over cellular (and how to bypass it with root)

The world (well, most of us, anyway) rejoiced when Google launched its new Hangouts app, but it looks like some AT&T customers are being forced to put up with a nasty snag. The carrier appears to be effectively blocking access to the app’s video chat feature while connected to its cellular network. Video chats will only work when you’re on a WiFi connection.

Google+ Hangouts banner

It’s nothing new from Ma Bell — they put the same clamps on iPhone’s FaceTime feature when it first came out. You might be relieved to know that the restriction was eventually lifted. While we await word from AT&T on whether or not they’ll do the same for Android, you’re probably wondering how you can get past this nuisance yourself. Thankfully, there’s a way.

It requires root, but that’s easy enough to obtain. And if this feature is important enough for you to consider rooting your device be sure to check out the All Things Root section for your specific device over at AndroidForums.com. Once you’ve done that, be sure to follow the easy peasy instructions listed below, courtesy of Google+ user Mark Dobson.

1.Get SQLight editor from the market
2. Get Root Explorer from the market.
3. use Root Explorer to browse to /data/data/com.google.android.gsf/databases/gservices.db and click on it
4. then click on “main”
5. Scroll down to gtalk_vc_wifi_only – highlight and hold
6. Press “Edit Record” and change the “value” to false instead of true
7. Reboot

[Thanks to everyone who sent this in!]

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  • ratnok

    Is that also true for Nexus phones? As far as I know Nexus phones can’t be blocked.

    • Nadim Visram

      Carriers can have work arounds by preventing to support the Nexus and one person mentioned that AT&T doesn’t support the Nexus 4. I really don’t like how these guys are like stubborn children. This oligopoly is quite annoying.

      • Brian S.

        Are you serious? How can ATT stop me from using a nexus 4 on their network? I almost bought one.

        • shadowslash

          Im using a Nexus 4 on at&t and have been for a few months. Can’t get hangouts to work on data even with the workaround.

          • Brian S.

            I thought he meant ATT didn’t support the Nexus 4 at all. But thank you for that information, good to know.

  • blue720

    Its time to the death star a message. You want to clamp down the service and overcharge the customers, that’s fine. I can tell you how I feel by leaving and going to a competitor.

  • yippiedad

    T-Mobile must be smiling now…

  • http://jordanhotmann.com/ Jordan Hotmann

    Step 1: buy a Nexus, Step 2: Leave AT&T (Optional)

    • Michael

      Nexus 4 on AT&T is also blocked.

      • Nadim Visram

        Nexus devices seem like a pretty nice deal since you don’t have crazy carriers bloating up devices and they are unlocked, which doesn’t force you to remain with one company at all.

      • JRomeo

        My brother has a Nexus4 on AT&T, and he takes advantage of AT&T’s fast HSPA+ ’4G’ internet data. AT&T thinks he’s on an iPhone, because that’s the data plan he has, and it works perfectly.

      • VersedNJ

        No its not, my N4 works fine on AT&T, if you mean the above mentioned app, just do what above said.

        • Michael

          I meant Hangouts

    • http://robert.aitchison.org raitchison

      Nexus is a tradeoff, sure you have less restrictions but you get a gimped phone with no expandable storage and no replaceable battery.

      • Kevin

        Gimped phone for some. Other people seem to be fairing well with their nexus’s, including myself.

        • http://robert.aitchison.org raitchison

          As I said it’s a tradeoff, you get the benefits of the Nexus experience, namely a Google controlled device (not counting the VZW Galaxy Nexus of course) but the lack of features such as a microSD card slot or replaceable battery are important to many people.

          For example, I routinely travel in areas with absolutely no data coverage so having the ability to use a microSD card is important. I also know that no matter what mishap befalls my phone I’m essentially guaranteed access to my unsyned pictures & videos because even if my phone won’t even boot I can always put the microSD card into a reader and get at all my data, if your pictures are on phone storage and your phone won’t boot you aren’t going to get those pictures back.

          Likewise with a replaceable battery, I keep my phone for 2+ years and have a very low tolerance for poor battery life, if my battery starts to wear out and doesn’t meet my needs I know I can always replace the battery and get like-new battery life right away.

          Sounds like the Galaxy SIV Google Edition is going to be the best of both worlds, of course you are paying a premium for that.

          • Billy_B

            A premium that most don’t care about…for $300 extra, you get LTE! You get lesser materials that make up your phone. You get an SAMOLED screen (barf). Sorry, but $300 is an extra $25/month for a year. No thanks! I’m pretty sure I speak for the majority of people out there. It’s nowhere near worth $300 more than the Nexus 4.

          • http://robert.aitchison.org raitchison

            Actually it’s a $250 premium not $300.

            I will be curious to see how the Galaxy SIV Google Edition sells compared to the the Nexus 4.

            You realize that “the majority” of people do not think bad things about Samsung AMOLED displays right?

            Likewise for “materials”, that’s the fallback argument of HTC and Apple fanboys as they try to justify their purchase decisions. I’ve owned 2 HTC phones, a Motorola and a Samsung they all have their good points and bad points.

          • Billy_B

            It’s actually more than $300. 650-350=300 last time I checked. After tax, it’s more than $300. People buy iPhone because of quality build. And Android people would like to. We already overpay for phones. They should look and feel nice for the money…not like the GS4.

          • http://robert.aitchison.org raitchison

            Sorry I had my pricing wrong on the Nexus, though in my defense an 8GB phone with no expandable storage isn’t going to be a viable option for many people.

          • Billy_B

            Except that I quoted the 16gb Nexus for $350…not the 8gb for $300.

          • rustygh

            When speaking nexus you might get thumbs here but you should face the facts. You are not speaking for the majority of people anywhere.

          • Billy_B

            Right…because your mom, dad, aunts, uncles, etc. don’t all sport iPhones. I’m sure they all care about removable batteries and SD cards…crazy thought. I know.

          • http://robert.aitchison.org raitchison

            Eh, nobody in my family has ever had an iPhone, my Mom has a Galaxy SIII which replaced her rooted OG Droid as well as a Galaxy Tab 10.1 and my Dad has a Galaxy Note II as his first smartphone, they are both in their 60s and were both Apple (iPod) users. My Wife has a Galaxy SIII which replaced her MyTouch 4G.

      • WickedToby741

        Did you watch I/O yesterday? Nexus GS4 ring a bell?

      • Billy_B

        Two of the most overrated things in the history of mobile phones since 99.9% of people don’t care (other than the 0.1% of people on these online blog sites). Small cheap portable battery charges have mostly fixed not having a removable battery and I’d rather have more storage in the phone than removable storage. It was a nightmare with expandable storage on my HTC Inspire (some of the app is on the main memory and the rest is on the storage card). Forget that nonsense. Most of us don’t care. Please accept that you are in the ultra minority on these two topics. I wish blog sites would stop having people incessantly feel the need to talk about stupid removable batteries and storage and understand that they are in the uber minority when it comes to that. It shouldn’t even be a factor in a phone decision for 99.9% of people.

        • http://robert.aitchison.org raitchison

          87% of statistics are made up on the spot. ;)

          • squiddy20

            Fact remains, for all the people whining and moaning about removable batteries and expandable storage, you’re in the minority. How often are you really swapping out/exchanging that SD card? How often do you need to pull the battery?

          • http://robert.aitchison.org raitchison

            Need is a relative term, I replace my battery about every 9 months because I won’t even let it get close to the point where it won’t last through the day even when travelling.

            As for SD cards, I have had a 32GB card for about a year which replaced my 16GB i had for about 2 years. My 32GB has come with me through 3 different phones.

            I swap the sd card in my tablet (Galaxy Tab 2) every time I travel with it.

          • Billy_B

            Yep…totally agree. I’ve used my external battery 3 times since November…lol

          • Wayne Peterkin

            Sorry but the nexus still I’d not the answer. I use an optimus g with an SD card. I got it for 350 just like the nexus off of eBay with a warranty. 16 GB plus expandable storage beats the crap out of what the nexus offers.

        • rustygh

          Its only because you spend time here with your nexus phanboys that you can even post all this crap. Hey I saw a live dinosaur yesterday.

          • Billy_B

            No fanboy here. I like a lot of aspects of a lot of phones. I think the HTC One is the best phone out there yet I don’t own one. It’s okay not to have the newest and best phone. I’m totally fine with that. Last time I checked, that’s the opposite of a Nexus fanboy. But it’s nice of you to presume you know me. Move along.

      • Phil Latio

        Between dropbox, box, and google I have about 80Gb of extra storage. Why pay for an SD card. Unless you have 100 fart apps, most people do just fine with what the nexus provides.

        • Wayne Peterkin

          Why the hell should anyone limit what they want based on what u want? I have a good amount of games on here that come close to 2gb, the nexus wouldn’t be able to hold them at all (that’s why I didn’t get it). I rooted my optimus g and use folder mount to move those files to the SD card. my music comes close to 6gb and pictures are another one gb and play station games are another 1.5gb at the moment. I really don’t want to hear anything about streaming music from Google play or any nonsense like that. I like using flac music files at times or 320kbps mp3 files so my music takes up a good amount of space because if this. I have only 2.5gb of data and it works great as long as I’m not streaming my music. not that I would get the same quality now would I.

  • gtbarry

    I would love to sit in on an AT&T meeting. I bet the words “customer” and “satisfaction” NEVER come up. Do you think they wonder why people hate them so much?

    • Kevin

      I disagree with you. I think they come up often, only it’s more like

      “To everyone’s satisfaction, we’ve managed to increase customer spending on our services and lower our cost by decreasing what they are actually allowed to access. The best part of it all? We’ve increased our customer base this quarter! Solid diamond watches and hookers will be passed out to each executive concluding this meeting. Great job everyone!”

      • gtbarry

        Excellent analysis!

    • digitalicecream

      I’ve sat in some of those meetings and I can tell you that the words “customer” and “satisfaction” does indeed come up.

      Also, it’s a triple word score if you use them together.

  • KOLIO

    Why would they do this anyway?It’s not as if any/majority of users have unlimited data.
    Why can’t they use it for video chat?

    Wait,don’t tell me,they have their own video chat service?

    BTW QUENTYN:

    KUDOS for posting a “How-To” for bypassing at&t’s B.S. :-)

    • Mark

      I am not defending this practice but there is probably a few reasons that we don’t know about.
      Being dicks? yeah.. that’s one.. and it’s probably closer to the truth.

  • Mark

    This is not new… they blocked video chat on gtalk too.

  • Nadim Visram

    I used to work for in the mobile business for post paid accounts (now I just do prepaid with a different business), and AT&T was the most criticized company of the big 4. People said that if T-Mobile’s coverage got better, they would go with them. Looks like T-Mobile is about rake in new customers. Sprint’s main problem is coverage too. Their plans aren’t that bad, but people complained about the speeds and I said the network was bogged down by the heavy usage. Verizon had the best service according to my customers, but they hated the prices. I was an AT&T customer for 2 yrs, Verizon for 3 yrs, and T-Mobile for 5 yrs or so. T-Mobile has been by far the best for me. I dealt with overcharging from AT&T, minutes/text charges for playing games on my Verizon phone, and got no overcharges from T-Mobile. I went from the Motorola V220 ( a simple camera flip phone) to an LG VX8100 ( a slightly upgraded phone to my Motorola) to a Blackberry Javellin 8900 (for a week) to a G1. From my G1, I went to a MyTouch 4G to an LG G2X to an HTC Sensation to the Galaxy S3. I have not had any problems with T-Mobile outside of their warranty period for T-Mobile.

    • Billy_B

      It’s really a coverage issue. I’m scared to go with T-Mobile because I travel a lot for work…mostly metropolitan areas but not always. AT&T has almost never let me down in the coverage department. I’m not under contract any longer with AT&T but I do have a corporate discount that I’d lose and 3 different grandfathered things that keeps my 2 phone plan affordable. I REALLY want to try T-Mobile, but for a traveler, I’m not sure if I can do it especially if I give up my AT&T goodies. If T-Mobile didn’t work out because of coverage and I had to go back to AT&T, all my goodies go bye-bye and it’ll cost me $30-$40 more per month than I pay right now. That’s a lot of money.

      If I didn’t have any AT&T goodies, I’d just make the switch. In fact, I’ve converted many people to T-Mobile and I’m not even a customer…lol But all of these people that converted don’t travel very much.

      • Nadim Visram

        Yeah, that’s the problem actually. Gradfathered plans are hard to give up and carriers would lick their chops for you to do so. If you get a discount and they honor it, you have a free pass to remain where you are. I totally understand bad coverage. Sprint has awful coverage on my university’s campus, but I don’t have them for one of those reasons. T-Mobile gives me incredible coverage at home, at work, and decent coverage on campus. I use wifi mainly, so I am happy with what I see. I think T-Mobile has the tools to be the #1 carrier, but it requires a cohesive strategy. Don’t just focus on big cities only. Gotta work on the little guys too. Their pricing is fair and their phone selection is great. iOS, Android, and Windows. I am sure they will get Tizen and some other mediocre OSes if necessary. Nexus devices are also important because you can keep a cheap device that is technologically advanced and you can switch carriers with ease.

      • Chris Noland

        part of AT&T’s breakup fee with the deal with TMO was roaming on their network for a number of years (think 4-5) for free.

        • Billy_B

          …in certain areas yes. But that’s not just a blanket nationwide roaming agreement. It’s only for certain specified areas.

      • http://robert.aitchison.org raitchison

        I just switched from T-Mobile (after almost 10 years) to AT&T in March, I was tired of not having coverage when I wanted it, even in populated areas of suburban Los Angeles I was lucky to get EDGE sometimes.

  • http://robert.aitchison.org raitchison

    I’m feeling cheap so I didn’t buy the two apps needed just to make this work but I did find this app which does exactly what’s needed.

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.innodroid.gtalkenabler

  • cammykool

    im smelling a repeast of iPhones facetime feature AT&T blocked that and jailbreak brought it back untill it was fixed

  • No_Nickname90

    Didn’t AT&T used to be Southwestern Bell? The 1st phone company in the US? The company that said we don’t care about your problems because we’re the only company and you have to use us anyways. Hmm… History tries to repeat itself, just in a different fashion.

  • FortTech101

    Just like Facetime.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Doughty/1302945760 Dan Doughty

    So not only are they telling you how much data you can use but they are also telling you how you can use it. Classic. Att and Apple must be twins. No wonder why the iPhone came out on Att first

  • kev2684

    Has the fastest LTE network to one up competition… prevents users to take advantage of it.

    AT&T, where network speeds are just bragging rights.

  • http://www.KV4S.com RussellThomas

    Will this app fix it for hangouts? It worked with talk
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.innodroid.gtalkenabler

    • EarlyMon

      Yep, that does exactly what the article says.

      Nice catch! :)

  • lisa harrisburg

    Its funny now that Google has replaced talk with Hangouts and people are just realizing that AT&T is blocking video chats, they were doing this before with talk video chats. This is not new news. I have called AT&T in the past and gave up the support people have no clue and I have asked them to escalate the issues since they remove the blocked for facetime, come on AT&T be fair to all your uses.

  • http://profiles.google.com/christopherjgordon Chris G

    Isn’t this illegal by the same standard that forced cell companies to allow you to use YOUR data for tethering or is that just Verizon?

  • Canon User

    Typical AT&T. This is why I’ll never be back.

  • VersedNJ

    Thanks Mr.Dobson, worked like a charm.