My Face Time Experience

On July 1, 2010

iPhone FaceTime

One of the major features touted with the iPhone 4 was the front-facing camera and the ability to have portable video chats, designated FaceTime.  I was one of the lucky few who picked up their iPhone 4 on day one and was most curious about this feature, particularly since I video chat on Skype time to time.  What follows is my experience in an effort to get the feature to work.

When I first got the phone, I had SMS disabled via AT&T because I’m not a fan of text messaging plus I have a TextFree account for those who obsessively send me messages.  Apparently, this was a bad idea in terms of activating FaceTime.

To begin, FaceTime is automatically disabled when you first received the phone.  You have to activate it by going into Settings, then Phone, then turning it on.  From there, the system sends a message to AT&T’s servers to activate the service.  This isn’t sent when one disables the SMS.  A quick call to AT&T and that issue was resolved.  Please note that if you ever have to restore your phone, this process has to be repeated.

Then there was the issue that the feature only works between iPhone 4 devices.  My friends are not as daring as I and as a result I knew nobody with an iPhone 4.  Fortunately, Apple set up 888-FACETIME, which I used, and I had a video chat with a courteous woman who explained some of the capabilities of the feature, including the ability to dock your self-image in a different corner of the screen and the ability to switch what your facetime partner is watching by flipping to the rear camera (it was my unmade bed.  Whoops).

The first time you use the service, you must have access to both a cellular and WiFi signal.  The cellular is only necessary the first time so the system can note that your iPhone has FaceTime capabilities.  Future calls would then only require WiFi.

I’m sure the porn industry is all over this feature.  I’m surprised it is taking Skype this long to release a new version that takes advantage of the front-facing camera since video-chatting is their forte.  They don’t even need a cellular signal to initiate.

By now, I’m sure most of you have seen the quality of the image, mine was right up there with all the online demos you’ve seen.  The quality in some ways, makes me wonder how much bandwidth would be used if 3G were supported for video calling.  I’m guessing I would have eaten up the 2GB limit pretty quickly with just a few phone calls a month, which is I’m sure the reason that this is being limited to WiFi for now.

In short, setting up FaceTime for first time use can be a little tedious, but once you get things working, having video chat capabilities in your hand is definitely a feature I can see getting used to pretty quickly.