I have to admit I still haven’t used FaceTime myself (iPhone4 are still rare in this part of the world), but I already heard first person experiences of it.
Steve May’s impression of FaceTime. Thank god he put it on the Internet eventually.
I really liked Stuart Henshall’s post series on FaceTime, especially the first post where he thoroughly reviews FaceTime. He explains what it is (“Skype on my iPhone”), what it feels like (“less disconcerting than expected”), and more.
What first comes to mind reading Stuart is that he himself, in a very pro-FaceTime post, is baffled by what exactly will be the use of FaceTime. You can’t really “hold the position” to have a face-to-face call – it may work for short calls, you might be able to pull it off using a stand, but the same problems we (that is everyone but the US) known about for a few years now are present here just the same.
And then, of course, there’s the WiFi issue. And if not, there’s the cost per minute. And don’t forget it requires some “guidelines” in order to work. Especially verifying that the callee has an iPhone4, can make a FaceTime call and is able to sit/stand still and maintain eye contact.
Sure, it’s a big thing that you don’t have to download anything or set anything up, but I can do the same with 3G video calling for a few years now, and no one’s really using it. In his last installment Stuart himself admits it:
If you got a new iPhone you will remember your first and perhaps only FaceTime call over Wifi… [as] it misses out on all the things you could be doing with it and/or giving you an experience of what a video cam in your pocket might mean.
And that is the bottom line. People asked me, following my own posts on FaceTime, why am I so disappointed with it. I think that the reason is that I expected a lot from Apple, and the result is very disappointing.
Video on mobile is not new (although it is in America). It never really caught on. Skype, on the other hand, has done a great job on our desktops. They are now claiming 34% of their calls are video. But as most of us spend most of our time next to a PC, Skype makes perfect sense. FaceTime doesn’t.
And to make it all worse, Apple’s FaceTime is closed and not interoperable. As Ajit Jaokar from TalkStandards explains, despite their use of a wide range of open and industry standards, collectively FaceTime is the total opposite – just iPhone4-over-WiFi to iPhone4-over-Wifi, a very closed system, and “this totally goes against the principles of network effects and interoperability”.
The “future” plans for iPhone to iPad, iPhone to iChat, iPhone to iYouNameIt are really just speculations, and should be taken as a grain of salt. Knowing Apple opening up is not their top priority. And if FaceTime remains closed, even if it is available on all Apple devices, then with all due respect this will not grow the visual communications market as expected.
There are ways for Apple to improve FaceTime. And FaceTime may very well change in the upcoming years. But unless Steve Jobs and the great minds at Apple start to think differently, and understand that when it comes to communications closed systems don’t really succeed, I suspect that for many the first FaceTime call will indeed be the last one.