Will iPhone 4’s FaceTime actually change the video calling game?

Jun 25, 2010
Tech

Video calling isn’t exactly new technology, but now that Apple’s proprietary app FaceTime, which is built into iPhone 4, has been placed in the hands of the early-adopting masses, face-to-face chatting may become the wave of the future. Or it won’t. It’s really too early to tell, but the potential is there and I can […]

Video calling isn’t exactly new technology, but now that Apple’s proprietary app FaceTime, which is built into iPhone 4, has been placed in the hands of the early-adopting masses, face-to-face chatting may become the wave of the future. Or it won’t. It’s really too early to tell, but the potential is there and I can definitely see FaceTime becoming integral in people’s lives—no more missed birthday parties, recitals or first steps, for instance.

Capitalizing on the front-facing camera, FaceTime works just like any video chat program you’ve seen before—your projected image appears in a small corner window, while the face of your chatmate fills the rest of the screen. You can launch FaceTime in two ways; one option is to select a person from your contact list and tap the FaceTime button in the middle of the screen. The other is to start a normal voice call and then switch to FaceTime through the options panel.

Flipping you iPhone to landscape mode widens the image, and tapping the lower right camera icon changes the view to the back camera, allowing your partner to see what you see. While the picture was somewhat choppy during my tests today, the functionality was pretty cool.

That said, FaceTime is not without its flaws.

First, you can only use the feature over a Wi-Fi connection (and it better be strong, or your conversation will be dropped). No 3G support limits the feature’s use, a surprising omission since other VoIPs do support video chat over that network. However, FaceTime calls are free and do not affect your monthly minutes, so they could be a money saver if you’re not on an unlimited plan.

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Second, sometimes it just doesn’t work. While I was able to initiate FaceTime calls through both launching methods successfully, I was unable to receive direct FaceTime requests through the contacts list method—the only proof the request was made was a missed call notification. My boyfriend was, however, able to initiate FaceTime with me after placing an actual voice call and then switching over.

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