Home Your Tech Mobility Apple's FaceTime freakin' rocks

Apple's FaceTime freakin' rocks

Although Apple has introduced video calls nearly a decade after the first 3G video calls started to be made, Apple's Skype-esque video calling works a freakin' treat, as long as you are in range of Wi-Fi.

A friend is currently overseas, having purchased a new iPhone 4 a couple of days before departing for the US, and I've just had the opportunity to have a Facetime chat.

Sure, it's not my first FaceTime chat, I've already made several on the device, but as long as you're in Wi-Fi, it works wonderfully well, far surpassing the video glitch-a-thon that is 3G video calls, with FaceTime looking like a Skype or iChat video call, rather than the 56kbps postage stamp-sized 1997 Real Player-esque video that is 3G video calling.

I haven't had the chance to try the FaceTime beta for Mac OS X as yet, as I'm yet to own a Mac OS X device - I only own iOS devices at the moment (and Windows 7 computers), but the more ways to FaceTime, the merrier.

Anyway, I wasn't FaceTimeing to a computer, but to another iPhone 4, and it just works.

My friend is at Stanford University in the US, and was sitting outside the Apple store, slurping their free Wi-Fi to make that FaceTime call. I'm sitting at home where I have Wi-Fi.

We've just spent the last 20 minutes talking about all kinds of things, I've had a mini tour of the area outside the Apple store, watching along with my friend the people walking by, in excellent video quality (as compared with regular 3G video calls).

One of my previous FaceTime calls was to a friend thousands of kilometres away in Far North Queensland - he'd also just bought an iPhone 4 (it finally arrived after a wait of a few weeks for stock to arrive) and likewise, within just a couple of minutes, we had FaceTime going.

We've all used Skype for video calls, and we all love Skype, but there's something special about great quality video calls from a handheld device that you can easily move around, and as FaceTime improves to presumably eventually work over 3G, and work with more than two video callers, it'll get even better.

Perhaps some of those TV manufacturers should be including FaceTime in their TV sets, and not just Skype - providing Apple is happy for this to happen. Perhaps Apple would prefer end-users to buy a Mac Mini and plug that into their TVs instead, along with a webcam of some kind.

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But that's all in the future. Today, FaceTime video calls are real, high quality, great fun and a great alternative to being there, especially if you're beset by the tyranny of distance and the tyranny of teleportation unavailability.

My friend in the US, who is an Australian visiting there for business, naturally thinks FaceTime is a brilliant opportunity for people to save a lot of money, saying 'it's so clear and real', and despite no multi-party calling as yet, he thinks it is 'better than Skype'.

Of course VoIP is a brilliant opportunity to save money, as is Skype video calling, but there's nothing quite as portable as an iPhone for quality video calls. Carry one of those 3G devices that convert mobile broadband into Wi-Fi, and you do have portable FaceTime anywhere - it's what I've done when people have wanted to FaceTime and I've been out and about.

So'¦ if you have an iPhone 4 and you haven't yet tried FaceTime, what the heck are you waiting for? It works beautifully with the latest iPod Touches as well, so there's no need to get an iPhone 4 - heck you can buy several iPod Touches for the price of a single iPhone 4, making FaceTime compelling all on its very own.

It's a little sad that it took Apple to truly revolutionise handheld video calling, especially when it was so very, very obvious Apple was going to do this next. I've been asking telco and mobile phone company representatives for YEARS when there would be an upgrade to the shoddy 3G video call quality that even the tech-savvy US ignored for so long.

All those companies had years of opportunity to do something like FaceTime. All those companies failed. Skype could have introduced video calling to its iPhone app long ago, but must be being squished by Apple not to introduce it, because I can't really think of a sensible reason why it's not there yet.

Even Fring is able to offer video calls on the iPhone, although the quality is clearly nowhere near as nice as FaceTime.

So'¦ FaceTime rocks. If you've tried it, you know what I mean. If not, you really need to get a little facetime with FaceTime. Heck, it's better than the virtual reality of Facebook, too - I'll always prefer a FaceTime chat to a Facebook poke, and as they say, that's no joke!



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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.