Will iPhone 4's FaceTime See Much Face Time?

Apple's trying to time the technology / market adoption curve once again, this time with video talk.

In many ways the iPhone 4 launch was a tale of two cities; Apple innovating with elegant hardware improvements in size, weight, screen and antenna, and Apple playing catchup with other features lagging in the iPhone OS, such as multitasking, folders, and unified email inbox. The wild card in all this, which many are heralding as revolutionary, is the video chat/talk of FaceTime and front facing camera. I'm cautiously optimistic about FaceTime… sounds great in concept but unclear whether it will propel Apple to yet another plateau in the mobile smartphone market 's equivalent of an arms race. Having not used FaceTime yet, I have to expect that Apple's strength in their take on video chatting will be in their user experience, screen quality and ease of use. There are also significant hurtles facing FaceTime such as FaceTime only working over Wi-Fi connections, waiting for enough of your friends to get an iPhone 4 to use FaceTime, no support for Skype or integration with iChat, and a long history of slow and no adoption of video calling technologies and services. Reportedly Apple's taking FaceTime to the standards groups to gain adoption as a standard, and FaceTime is built on a number of standards (H264, ACC, SIP, STUN, TURN, ICE, RTP, and SRTP according to Gizmodo), but that doesn't make FaceTime a standard yet. In thinking how I use wi-fi on my iPhone and iPad, I wonder if the wi-fi restriction will in fact be a big limitation. My iPhone's on a wi-fi network all the time when I'm at work, home and the occasional Starbucks extended visit. That's pretty much the same for the iPad, though it gets much less airtime than my iPhone. Given "driving while distracted" issues, I wouldn't likely use FaceTalk while driving, which begs the question, how often would someone use FaceTalk over a 3G data connection? Apple's been on a staggeringly successful run of figuring out when the technology and market adoption curves intersect for m3p players, smartphones and the app store, so their track record's good enough to be encouraged to think they might have done it again with video calling. Still, despite the "gotta have it" nature of Apple products, I'm not quite ready to set aside my "still under plan" iPhone 3G investment and pay full boat for the iPhone 4.

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