FaceTime will be successful because you don’t need an account

One-tap simple.

FaceTime works right out of the box — no need to set up a special account or screen name. And using FaceTime is as easy as it gets. Let’s say you want to start a video call with your best friend. Just find her entry in your Contacts and tap the FaceTime button. Or maybe you’re already on a voice call with her and you want to switch to video. Just tap the FaceTime button on the Phone screen. Either way, an invitation pops up on her iPhone 4 screen asking if she wants to join you. When she accepts, the video call begins. It’s all perfectly seamless. And it works in both portrait and landscape modes.

This is going to change everything. I can’t wait to be able to do video calls with my parents, with Kate, with friends all over the world. iChat failed here because it was software. FaceTime will work because it doesn’t change the device you use or your existing behavior.

But lets deconstruct the software side of this for a second. Any phone can add a front facing camera, and any phone can add a Skype like application that does video phone calls. But how did Apple make it work out of the box, without accounts?

FaceTime currently works over WiFi only, yet it must use the AT&T network to initiate the connection. How else can my phone find and connect to my mom’s phone 500 miles away, using nothing but her phone number?

Leave it to Apple to go the extra mile. Any other company would have made you sign up for something new. But Apple focused on making the software great, and even had to do some custom integration with AT&T. That’s what will make it a break out feature, not just something for geeks. My mom and I will do a video call the first day we both have new phones.

At Posterous, we’ve always believed in avoiding account creation as much as possible. You can post without an account, and you can subscribe without an account. Accounts get in the way. Apple feels the same.

So how does FaceTime work? I guess we’ll learn more tomorrow, but it seems something like:

  1. Initiating iPhone contacts receiving iPhone using standard telephone protocol (using AT&T).
  2. iPhones communicate to determine if both support FaceTime and both are on WiFi.
  3. iPhones then create a direct peer to peer connection over the internet. The iPhones deal with all IP addresses, firewalls, NAT issues automatically.
  4. Participants can now do a video call over WiFi without use of the cellular network.

But users don’t know this is happening. It just works. And that’s what makes this technology truly amazing.

Kudos to Apple for making FaceTime an open standard. Skype, you suck. Hopefully we’ll see FaceTime added to other devices and networks and it becomes the standard for video chat.

71 comments

  1. You don’t need an account.. you just need another iPhone 4. That’s a pretty small pool to be picking from. My mom, dad and sisters don’t have an fancy phones but they sure do have Skype on their Mac/PCs.

  2. Same issue as Paul. Most of my friends/family have Skype, but don’t own iPhones. Seems like FaceTime is an exclusive club.

  3. you can call anything exclusive on day one. That’s not really fair. Over time, I predict this will become the standard. And because of its simplicity, because it’s account free, FaceTime will have a *higher adoption rate* that other technologies.Hundreds of millions of people have access to Skype (meaning they have an internet enabled computer) but how many users does skype have?I predict of people with FaceTime enabled phones, the percent that use it will be very high. And over time, the user based will grow and grow.

  4. Isn’t it more likely that Apple maintains a phone_number->apple_account map, so when you "call" a phone number, it routes it over the normal network?

  5. Skype is super reliable. We try to use iChat to communicate amongst our company but it always fails because of firewalls or other network issues, then we turn to Skype which seems to work from anywhere. Hell, I’m chatting with Jeannette now in Tahiti on Skype because nothing else works. I hope FaceTime is that reliable and just works.

  6. <html><body style="word-wrap: break-word; -webkit-nbsp-mode: space; -webkit-line-break: after-white-space; ">Brad: skype blows. Never been a fan. It seems big in the startup world but I’ve had nothing but bad experiences with it. Lots of drops, terrible quality. When we were pitching our angel round, we often told people to use iChat. They were a bit surprised by our request but then thrilled with the quality.<br><div><div></div></div></body></html>

  7. I will say this, Apple knows how to market this feature. Did you see that Facetime video with all the people video chatting? Their agency hit it out of the park.

  8. Paul: yep, Macs have the best softwareFaceTime will be an open standard, so it will be available across devices and platforms eventually.

  9. <html><body style="word-wrap: break-word; -webkit-nbsp-mode: space; -webkit-line-break: after-white-space; ">I haven’t seen the videos yet! I’ll check them out tonight :)<br><div><div></div></div></body></html>

  10. Agree with Paul. Works well for family members who all have iPhone 4 ‘s, but for most, it’s easier to use the existing computer they have to Skype. My mother, father, sister, girlfriend, and grandparents don’t use iPhones, but they all have access to Skype.Also, with WiFi only, I foresee problems with getting both parties in a WiFi setting to make this work. No doubt, I will more than likely be getting an iPhone 4 (a loyal iPhone user since 2007), but it will be interesting to see how it works for the majority of people, not just the small percentage of the highly technical users.

  11. I suspect they’re using the push notification infrastructure instead of ATT, but it’s just a hunch.I’ve had problems with both Skype and iChat over the years. Hopefully FaceTime is the solution, and available in iChat sooner than the OSX 10.7 release.

  12. <html><body style="word-wrap: break-word; -webkit-nbsp-mode: space; -webkit-line-break: after-white-space; ">Being WiFi only is definitely a huge issue. But I am disregarding that because I’m confident it’s a temporary limitation. I wouldn’t judge the success of FaceTime on something minor like that.<div><br><div><div></div></div></div></body></html>

  13. I would have to agree with Sachin. I use iChat with my friends in Ohio for video, and it works most of the time. I bought everyone in my family web cams for xmas, set up skype for them, and still, no one uses it. Regardless, an extra feature that makes the iphone, and iOS 4 the best out out there.

  14. The article is spot on — Facetime has a good chance of building a user base because it is so simple to use, and from there it may conquer the world (including a PC client to compete with Skype, etc… eventually — just like iTunes). Yes, my mother might buy an iPhone just to see her grandchildren on the phone.I just wonder, though, how would this look like to AT&T: if you drop from the voice call to the WiFi-Facetime connection wouldn’t AT&T lose revenues? Or does it keep the voice coming through the "Plain Old Telephone System" while Video goes through WiFi? — Guess it must be the 2nd option, if AT&T got a say.

  15. Right now this is an awesome feature that is severely limited. Two people who both have an iPhone 4 can make this work. Yes the techie crowd and early adopters will use this but what about everybody else? What I am interested in is "Open Standard". Apple needs to open this up because frankly everybody will not have an iPhone 4. For families to video chat this technology needs to work on multiple devices and not be limited to the iPhone 4. Just how iChat on a Mac works.

  16. <html><body style="word-wrap: break-word; -webkit-nbsp-mode: space; -webkit-line-break: after-white-space; ">Michael, Apple is opening this up as a standard. I even mentioned that in my post.<div><br></div><div>And people shouldn’t complain about this being available to early adopters only. Would you prefer if innovation slows/stops just because you can’t access the latest and greatest?<br><div><div></div></div></div></body></html>

  17. FYI. Here’s the list of standards used in FaceTime (as shown in Jobs’ slide): H.264, AAC, SIP, STUN, TURN, ICE, RTP, SRTP. I’m not sure Facetime needs cellular to start up, altho phone numbers might be all that Apple has implemented for now. I also think the issue with carriers is how to monetize. Perhaps Jobs can persuade them to include Facetime (over cellular) as part of one’s voice minutes in the cell plan.

  18. Sachin, I’ve had pretty terrible experiences with iChat connectivity and for my Skype has been super reliable. Its far better at busting through firewalls than iChat too.

  19. To the nobody who posted iChat is only on the Mac…That is technically true, but it uses the AIM protocol, and can communicate with AIM for Windows, including video chat. So while the iChat client is Mac only, iChat video conferencing, audio conferencing and many other features are cross platform.

  20. Apple has actually managed to achieve something that has been tried hundreds of times over the last 15 years.You better believe that other companies will be all over this. Say goodbye to the standard issue conference call box. If Polycom wants to stay in business they are going to have to push out this kind of innovation or face being obliterated by a small startup.

  21. i always wished some kind of a video chat feature in ipad!.. what has apple popularised is the touch interface, which is a boon for my mother, grandmom etc.they can actually interact easily with a computer now. mouse was never intuitive for them.

  22. Proprietary to iphone4 and AT&T?? Sorry, it’s facetime that sucks! Why can’t we just all get along? Skype is going to charge for 3G, is this true, ok, they it sucks too!

  23. I’m guessing the initial call setup must goto a central server and not over the AT&T network. Something similar to Skype.If it’s truly open standards, I could see Skype integrating this into their iPhone Skype client. This would allow an iPhone 4 user to Skype with people that have Skype as well. That’s what I would hope for.

  24. "Kudos to Apple for making FaceTime an open standard. Skype, you suck. Hopefully we’ll see FaceTime added to other devices and networks and it becomes the standard for video chat."From the slide in the keynote, this does not appear as an open standard, rather built upon open standards.If it’s built using open standards, does any existing clients already support it? Additionally, I’m sure that the Open Source Initiative would take umbrage at H264 and AAC being called "Open", given the patent provisions in their licenses.

  25. If it is Free – will we see a version of it on the iPod Touch and the iPad? Because some of us cannot afford a contract with phone carriers! Also it would be good if I could get it on my MacBook. What about it Job?

  26. Apple have found a way to have video chat (which is usually free on wifi) and charge for it. I bet using facetime still uses your voice minutes.

  27. Congratulation Apple on video calling now, I might consider replacing my 2 year old nokia e71 that does video calling on 3g no less with something a bit more up to date, A NOKIA E72, hahaha

  28. <html><body style="word-wrap: break-word; -webkit-nbsp-mode: space; -webkit-line-break: after-white-space; "><div>They are opening it:</div><div>Apple announces open standard FaceTime video chat for iPhone 4</div><div><br></div><a href="http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/10/06/07/apple_announces_open_standard_facetime_video_chat_for_iphone_4.html">http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/10/06/07/apple_announces_open_standard_facetime_video_chat_for_iphone_4.html</a><br><div><div></div></div></body></html&gt;

  29. Great that they used a lot of web standards, but it’s been a built-in-feature of 3G for years. My Nokia N79 supports it and I know many others who have phones that support it, I’ve just never used it, cause I’m never sure who does and who doesn’t have a phone that does support it – and so I tend to forget and don’t care about it.

  30. <html><body style="word-wrap: break-word; -webkit-nbsp-mode: space; -webkit-line-break: after-white-space; ">Allan, and that’s exactly the sort of problem Apple will solve well. I bet there’s a simple video icon next to every contact who has a FaceTime enabled device. It will be that simple.<div><br></div><div>I video chat with iChat because it’s easy for me to see who is online and who has video (based on an icon next to their name). On the flip side, I stopped sharing files over IM because I have no idea if file transfers will work (depends on the client on the other side). This is a solvable problem<br><div><div></div></div></div></body></html>

  31. As some people already noted, standard 3G devices come with front cameras for the last few years. Video calls was supposed to be one of the killer features of 3G, but fact is that practically no one uses it.I’m not sure if it’s because people feel awkward with video calls or because it had terrible quality. If it’s the later, maybe Apple will be able to solve it. If it’s the first, then FaceTime will be used in the first month and then will be forgotten like the 3G video calls…

  32. Mobile phones have had video calling for 10 years, popular in East Asia, but never caught on in US and Europe. Can only call people on another mobile, so looks pretty much the same as this service.

  33. look, admit it – FaceTime is a real innovation. because as Sachin leads, it "just works" without any setup. like a phone. that’s what is "new." the UI is the simplest ever, and being able to use the front camera is a huge plus (do any phones do that now?).and it is very possible that once the telcos’ 4G networks are up and running – next year? – it won’t be restricted to wifi for 4G capable phones. but that will require a whole new generation of hardware.it is also likely that Apple will enable connections to iChat accounts (per their data in your address book) in an update. that will be nice for Mac owners and expand the potential other-user list quickly.how fast other smartphone makers adopt FaceTime or not remains to be seen. but i’d be surprised if Google doesn’t add it to Android ASAP. Skype’s big advantage is its ultra cheap voice phone service. i use it. works on the touch and iPad, which is great. but for video it is just too constrained. and getting it set up is needlessly complicated IMO.so forheavinsake stop grumbling …

  34. not that simple, the phone need to work in C mode which support carrier network and IP (WiFI) network at same time to archive face time function. so far, not that much phone have this function. so it will stay on iphone and AT&T only.

  35. argh…why all of the comments that compare IPhone4 to Skype? Irrelevant argument. This is about how cool video chat on the iphone 4 is. Why not argue that land lines are even better since more people have home phones than cell phones… not only that, never a concern about cell coverage…grrrr

  36. <html><body style="word-wrap: break-word; -webkit-nbsp-mode: space; -webkit-line-break: after-white-space; ">There are plenty of things that existed before Apple did them the right way and made them popular. Doing something crappy doesn’t mean it’s been "done"<br><div><div></div></div></body></html>

  37. Here in Austria (Europe) the „3“ network (http://www.drei.at) offered video calling already several years ago. Actually it worked very well and i loved to use it a lot. One thing that was absolutely great was the fact that it worked EXACTLY as Apple has planed it now: – no setup at all – free of charge – like a regular phone call – it worked very well BUT … – only within the „3“ network (all other providers were extremely expensive to call and nearly nobody else offered mobile phones with video call capability iPhone 4: – the idea is not new (Face Time) – the device is better (technological, display, camera) – so far only WIFI !!! In my opinion this will only work well, if … – they enable video calling over regular networks – you are able to call any iPhone 4 on any network – you are able to call other video call capable devices I hope it turns out well this time … because it really is / was a great thing … even several years ago … 😉

  38. To the Skype fans, I have no doubt that the iPhone4 will remain open source and Skype will allow for video chat, yes like many others they are trying to make money. This stated Skype has never been expensive and even with a 3g deal they will remain the cheapest option.To the dedicated Apple fans, Face time has been quoted with a 6 month to a year window before it is offered to 3g users instead of wi-fi, this can be found on the apple website. With that upgrade apple could easily choose to open the doors to the general public instead of constraining it to iPhone 4G users.

  39. Ok so I notice the suggestion that Apple will use AT&T’s network to initiate the Facetime calls. I guess none of you consider the fact that iPhones are sold worldwide, they come out here in Australia at the same time as they do in the USA, and UK, they are available on all networks, or outright unlocked. Are you suggesting that Facetime won’t work here?!?One thing I hate about Apple is that it puts limitations on iPhone software, such as Skype calls over 3G, because AT&T doesn’t like the idea of people using their data connection to get free calls. Here in Australia, none of the networks have issues with video calling or skype over 3G etc. We also don’t have unlimited data plans on mobile phones, so that’s perhaps the reason they don’t care, they can make money from people going over their data limits. Still, why should video calling be limited to other iPhone 4’s when all other video call capable phones in Australia can make calls to any other video call capable phones?!? I was making video calls 8 years ago!!! Without wifi, over 3G, to people on other networks and different devices!!! Why can’t the iPhone 4 just work like a normal freaking video phone!!!Seriously. I LOVE my iPhone 3GS but certain things about it perplex me. Make no sense. etc. I ended up jailbreaking mine after 6 months or so as I really needed Skype calls on the go, that was one feature my Nokias always did, and one feature that I greatly suffered without.Any idea when Apple is going to come to the party and realise they aren’t the only mobile phone company out there???

  40. I understand that "Face Time" is wifi only. Now is that "Video is wifi" no AT&T needed. With "Audio" AT&T needed? Meaning (Video portion = wifi free and Audio portion= AT&T calling plan charges) or Video & Audio both =wifi free " no AT&T involvment? If there is no AT&T involved with face time. Then the devices alone are perfect with out phone capbilities. And wouldnt that mean Itouch 4 would have cameras as well? But with is it Video-wifi and Audio-AT&T or Video/Audio-wifi ?

  41. Jeff, You seem to speak in circles but I think after several read through’s I understand your question. Jobs made "Facetime" with the Idea that it would be free for both its audio and video over a Wi-Fi connection, the fact that it uses a phone number means that is the "Account" on a web-based server apple will be using to host with.-Yes there is a account tethered to this Application. Apple just does the work.As to those out of country like Ford, True we Americans ignore that most of the world has iPhones but that is because the rest of the world already got tethering and all the other goodies and those of us in America are stuck with AT&T and their limitations on the iPhone. Ford brought up a good point though "Unlimited data plans" this is something of the past with AT&T they are getting rid of these plans all-together, only people who previously had unlimited will retain their services. This mean the American iPhone will son be joining the masses as it begins to offer tools like Skype, Tethering, and Facetime over 3g connection because AT&T will make more on a monthly basis on people running over their data plan allowances. -America is behind the times, count yourself lucky.And to Sachin, You said you hope that "Facetime" is added to other devices and networks, Even if apple makes a program like skype for pc/mac users it doesn’t mean the "no setup required" will be a standard. And "Facetime" is property of Apple, I doubt they would sell the app to another phone maker.

  42. I think Jeff’s question is a good one. Jobs was not specific on whether the audio was free or if it is only the video. As you can be in a voice call between two iPhone 4 devices prior to and after hitting Facetime, you have to conclude the entire audio portion is being carrier over the AT&T voice network and will continue to be handled that way while Facetime is active. Therefore you still pay the voice portion to AT&T. Perhaps this is also the case if you initiate a Facetime call from Contacts – voice call goes over AT&T and the video over WiFi – but in this scenario the user will need to be aware they are paying for a chargeable AT&T voice call – maybe there is a popup reminding the user before dialing the call.For me Facetime is a neat service not to require any set up and overcomes the many limitaions of the 3G video-telephony service. I expect Facetime video will run over a 3G data channel in a year or two.

  43. You don’t need to initiate a voice call to start a FaceTime session. From Apple’s web site:http://www.apple.com/iphone/features/facetime.html"One-tap simple.FaceTime works right out of the box — no need to set up a special account or screen name. And using FaceTime is as easy as it gets. Let’s say you want to start a video call with your best friend. Just find her entry in your Contacts and tap the FaceTime button. Or maybe you’re already on a voice call with her and you want to switch to video. Just tap the FaceTime button on the Phone screen. Either way, an invitation pops up on her iPhone 4 screen asking if she wants to join you. When she accepts, the video call begins. It’s all perfectly seamless. And it works in both portrait and landscape modes."Note the key line there " find her entry in your Contacts and tap the FaceTime button…" or "…you’re already on a voice cadll with her and you want to switch to video..". When you add a mobile phone number to a contact, you can specify whether it is an iPhone. This will let the software know whether the person you are calling has an iPhone. I’m not sure but I think Apple must be keeping a record of your mobile phone number and IP address. It may require some integration with the telco to achieve this but I would have thought that at the pace they are rolling these babies out, they would not have the time to establish this level of integration with the telco systems. So I can only conclude that iOS 4 will register your mobile phone number and IP address whenever it detects a network. Possibly sending it to Apple’s MobileMe service.

  44. So I’m confused. Will we be charged for calls over the wifi network. Assuming I’m in the US and calling my friend in India via facetime only, will the voice still go via POTS and charge me and will the video go over some VOIP network?

  45. FaceTime = Open Standard. If this is a success then it will mean the feature can make it’s way into software & hardware from other vendors, suddenly FaceTime to iPhone users from Skype or other IM clients. This is the vision Apple has for it, to set a standard that finally brings video chat to a level that everyone can easily achieve.

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