One more thing from this morning’s press event: Apple’s bringing FaceTime to the Mac. This comes as no surprise due to the heavy integration of iOS design concepts in Mac OS Mufasa (Lion). FaceTime is video calling app that Apple added to the iPhone 4 and the 4th Generation iPod touch. It was pretty limited considering the fact that there aren’t many 4th Generation iOS devices in the wild… my wife doesn’t even have (or want) one. It’s nice to see it make its way to the Mac, but I have a question: why not just integrate it with iChat? Mac users are familiar with iChat — I daresay that a lot of people buy Macs because they think the video chat capabilities look cool and easy. Adding the video calling features under the name of FaceTime convoluted Apple’s branding: they created feature duplication between iChat and FaceTime. Sure, iChat couldn’t video chat with phones previously but it’s perfectly capable of video chat. That brings me to my next question, why didn’t Apple just create iChat for iOS? That would have had the video calling and give us the coveted iChat interface. (As a side note, Apple seriously needs to add Facebook to iChat)
Continue reading after the break for a review of its features.
As we noted in the title, this is still beta software… we thought it was terrible in our initial testing but then realized that the crappy 1.5meg T1 line (you old folks will think that’s fast) was holding the software back. It took forever for it to connect to the phone after initializing the app from our computer. The video was fine if you like the camera quality of the iOS devices’ front-facing camera. It didn’t stutter or distort at all on the T1. That proves to me that this should be allowed over 3G (damn you, AT&T, for not allowing that). My AT&T data connection has better download speeds than a 1.5meg T1 line… but I’m guessing the upload comes nowhere near that. Still, there are jailbreak apps that trick your device into thinking it’s on Wi-Fi in order to bypass the data limitations… we’ve used FaceTime with those and it still works great. I’ll repeat my disgust with AT&T’s restrictive nature.
Once we moved back to my house, we were really impressed with the quick connection from Mac to iPhone 4. It hardly even paused on the 50meg Comcast line I have running there. Again, call clarity was great for both audio and video… no real complaints there.
Our biggest complaint was that the software was a little too simplistic. The sandboxing (cropping the iSight’s video to fit the iPhone format) wasn’t something we were expecting and just made it look funny. We’re sure it’s designed to alleviate the “I can’t see you… you’re not in the frame” conversations, but it looks really tiny and awkward on a 27-inch iMac. We’re also a little displeased with the contacts integration. You can’t call anyone unless they’re in your Address Book contacts. To complicate matters, there’s no way to create a new contact from within the application — you have to open Address Book, add the contact, then go back to FaceTime to place the call.
It does what Apple advertised it to do. It doesn’t seem like the ideal solution, but we’ll take it for now.