Why Apple’s FaceTime is a win

Mon, Jun 7, 2010


Sachin Agarwal, who formerly worked on Final Cut Pro while at Apple, explains why FaceTime, Apple’s new video conferencing feature on the new iPhone 4, is bound to be a hit.

“FaceTime will be successful because you don’t need an account. That separates it from being a Geek feature”

Indeed, Apple touts this simplicity on its website, writing:

FaceTime works right out of the box — no need to set up a special account or screen name. And using FaceTime is as easy as it gets. Let’s say you want to start a video call with your best friend. Just find her entry in your Contacts and tap the FaceTime button. Or maybe you’re already on a voice call with her and you want to switch to video. Just tap the FaceTime button on the Phone screen. Either way, an invitation pops up on her iPhone 4 screen asking if she wants to join you. When she accepts, the video call begins. It’s all perfectly seamless.

And Apple has made FaceTime an open standard, no less. Incidentally, Agarwal speculates on how FaceTime operates:

So how does FaceTime work? I guess we’ll learn more tomorrow, but it seems something like:

  1. Initiating iPhone contacts receiving iPhone using standard telephone protocol (using AT&T).
  2. iPhones communicate to determine if both support FaceTime and both are on WiFi.
  3. iPhones then create a direct peer to peer connection over the internet. The iPhones deal with all IP addresses, firewalls, NAT issues automatically.
  4. Participants can now do a video call over WiFi without use of the cellular network.

But users don’t know this is happening. It just works. And that’s what makes this technology truly amazing.



2 Comments For This Post

  1. wygit Says:

    How the heck do you “Make FaceTime an open standard”? Doesn’t it sort of require buy-in from someone besides you? Doesn’t it involve some kind of standards bodies being involved?
    Or is this more akin to Apple showing a bunch of demos and saying:
    “The demos below show how the latest version of Apple’s Safari web browser, new Macs, and new Apple mobile devices all support the capabilities of HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript. Not all browsers offer this support. But soon other modern browsers will take advantage of these same web standards — and the amazing things they enable web designers to do.”

    …and putting in browser checks that only allow the demos to open in Safari?

    Is this more of “Standards are whatever the heck we say they are”?

  2. Bill Cartauld Says:

    Why not make FaceTime 2.0 look more like news video conferencing, which has already proven to make video conferencing look good for many years. News video conferencing has stylish colored frame borders, same size images of each speaker at the same time, and titling under each speaker (of their names). Why not port news video conferencing to the internet. Time for news casting professionals to join in on iApp development!

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