FaceTime is Apple’s buzz word for video calling. This feature became available with the new iPhone. For a detailed description of this feature, head on over to Apple’s official page about FaceTime. For a good video showing FaceTime in action, go here.
Mic and I both have the new iPhone and we have been using FaceTime for a week now. It has been great. When you are talking to someone over the phone, a lot is lost in translation because you can’t see their face or body language. With FaceTime, you can see the person as you talk to them. Even better, you can switch between the cameras on the iPhone. There is a camera on the front as well as a camera on the back. So during a FaceTime call, you can toggle between your face and other visuals. For example, if you see a building or sign that you would normally describe over the phone, you simply hit the toggle button and show the building or sign for a few seconds and then toggle back to your face. Sounds simple, but the effect is dramatic. It allows more interactive and meaningful communication.
One down side to the current implementation of FaceTime is that it only works over a WiFi connection (for now). It does not work over the 3G cellular network, so you have to be in range of a wireless access point. Fring is an application for the iPhone that supposedly supports video calls over 3G and we will be trying that out. For more info on Fring, go here. Be sure to read the reviews before deciding if it is worth downloading.
On the positive side, FaceTime video calls do not count towards your cellular minutes because they are sent over the WiFi network, not the 3G network.
Mic and I have weekly team meetings and we do these via FaceTime now. It has improved the flow of our conversations dramatically. It makes the process more enjoyable. This has been a glimpse of things to come and it is a good thing. In 2 years we will all be looking back at the announcement of FaceTime and wonder how we got by without video calling using our mobile phones.