Today, Apple announced that FaceTime is headed to the Mac, but it leaves me wondering – will people use it more or will the feature remain a novelty? I’ve had my iPhone for who knows how long now and I’ve used FaceTime twice, maybe three times since pulling it out of the box. The first time was so that I could say, “Cool, I can use my iPhone 4 for video chatting. Bye.” I can’t even remember why I used it the second and third time.
Video chatting has been around for quite some time, but it never really took off. While Apple has a knack for making products and services work – especially ones that didn’t have much success before – it doesn’t seem like FaceTime has really taken off.
For starters, it’s a matter of convenience. Unless you jailbreak your iPhone 4, you’re very limited to where and when you can use it. Because you can only initiate and receive calls over Wi-Fi, you’re likely to make a FaceTime call when you’re at home. (Unless you’re one of those people who don’t care about being loud and obnoxious in cafes and bookstores.)
Secondly, you don’t always want to be facing your caller for one reason or another. The late David Foster Wallace went into great detail about video calling in his book, Infinite Jest, and why video-phone makers had little success with the service. Maybe you don’t look pretty enough right then or perhaps you want to be multi-tasking while on the call — being on video will clearly show your caller that your attention is elsewhere if you’re cooking and chatting at the same time. (Oh, and if you haven’t read that behemoth of a book, you really should. It’s great.)
In addition to the iPod touch with a front-facing camera, we now have FaceTime for Mac. It seems more convenient since you probably video chat with friends over iChat or Skype anyway, and maybe some of your iPhone 4-strapped friends don’t have video chat capabilities enabled on their computers. Will you start using it more now that the service is available on both your Mac and iPhone 4?
For me, it might just be another case of, “Cool, I can use FaceTime on my Macbook Pro,” and then I’ll never make another FaceTime call – on both my Mac and iPhone 4 – ever again.
What about you? You can also download the beta version for Mac here, but it’s only for OS X 10.6.4 or higher.