The Evolution and Expansion of FaceTime

FaceTime is a feature of Apple products that allows two people to video chat on a wireless internet connection, or in the case of an iPhone, even without internet connection.  This technology was introduced in June of 2010, and has made massive advances in the years since.  FaceTime is basically like calling someone on the phone, but instead of just hearing their voice, you actually see their face on the screen as well.  This has allowed for people communicate more effectively in the sense that if something needs to be shown or demonstrated, it can actually be seen rather than just explained over the phone.  This has been a huge help in the business world.  While there are other video chat technologies, the simplicity of FaceTime makes it easy for people to quickly make a call and see the person they want to talk to.  There are some downsides, like the only way you can FaceTime is if you have an Apple product, no Android devices have FaceTime, as it is exclusive to Apple.

Apple has just launched a new operating system for the iPhone along with the brand new iPhone 7.  The new system, iOS 10, brings many new features to the phone, including interactive messaging, no swipe to unlock the phone, and many more features, including an upgrade to the FaceTime software.  Apple released this statement on its website along with a video and an interactive page where you can explore the new features of iOS 10.

“Everything you love is now even better with iOS 10, our biggest release yet. Express yourself in bold new ways in Messages. Find your route with beautifully redesigned Maps. Relive memories like never before in Photos. And use the power of Siri in more apps than ever. There’s so much to say about iOS 10 — here are just a few of our favorite things.”  See webpage and view video here.

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picture via static1.i4u.com

Before FaceTime was introduced the only modes of communication via mobile phone, not just on the iPhone but on all other types of phones as well, were calling and texting.  This really didn’t give a sense of close personal communication.  However, with the introduction of FaceTime in 2010, it gave a new sense of having that sense of close, personal communication, without having to actually be right next to the person you are talking to.  In an article on Medium.com this is explained in more detail.

“Our interpersonal relationships are no longer defined by their time and space limitations. That which was once only possible if we lived within driving distance of another person is now possible through the use of FaceTime. Certainly, previous forms of communication had similar effects; my mom and dad, for instance, would have never developed a relationship without modern methods of mail delivery, or without the ability to call one another (more on their experience shortly). FaceTime, however, has taken these affordances to an entirely new level. It takes mere seconds to connect with someone over FaceTime, and it can be done cheaply and conveniently.”

FaceTime was created by an engineer at Apple by the name of Roberto Garcia.  The codename for the technology was originally “Venice”, yes, just like the one in Italy.  Garcia went into detail in a 2014 article written by Shara Tibken, that explained a lawsuit between Apple and Samsung, with both technology giants accusing one another of infringing on their patents.  Garcia was called to the stand in the trial and explained how and why he came up with and created FaceTime.

Garcia started off by simply saying, “I’m extremely proud of the work I did on FaceTime.”  He related back to an anecdote saying that “one of the proudest moments of his life” was when he made a FaceTime call to his mother-in-law after his daughter was born in 2011.

“We heard her bawling in crystal clear audio in the moments afterward,” Garcia said. “She told me she felt like she was right there. That’s what we aimed for when we created FaceTime.”

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picture via toucharcade.com

The technology was far beyond anything that had come before it, because of things like the high quality video and the crystal clear sound, like Garcia mentioned.  Garcia said in the article that he had developed a way to make voice calls from a Mac computer by hooking his phone up to it, and that is what started the vision of FaceTime.  The engineers at Apple started “Game Kit” in 2008 that allowed players to play against each other and also voice chat.  Garcia knew right away that the iPhone would be great for games.  “In 2008 it became clear, the iPhone was a great gaming platform,” Garcia said.

Game Kit quickly evolved into “Game Center” in 2009 where players could have multiple people in a chat at once.  As soon as this technology was created, he started on what is known as FaceTime, and Game Center was a huge help in creating it, “Code writing for Game Center turned out to be really useful for FaceTime,” Garcia said.

Garcia and four other engineers worked non-stop on this project, writing tens of thousands of lines of code.  Garcia also noted that Apple CEO Steve Jobs didn’t like the FaceTime platform at first and wanted to make sure people could use the technology without any complications right when it was introduced, so they improved the video calling before releasing it.  Garcia also said there were some security concerns to think about when creating this, so they made sure no videos or conversations could be saved.

“I don’t want my video calls recorded by anybody or seen by anyone, so I and everyone on my team took security and privacy very seriously,” Garcia said.

Apple introduced a Wi-Fi version of FaceTime in 2010, meaning the phone had to be connected to a wireless internet network for a call to be made, and then a cellular version in 2012.  This newer version allowed calls to be made solely from cellular data, so no internet connection was needed.  It was like making a phone call but being able to see the other person on the screen at the same time.  Steve Jobs said during the introduction of the iPhone 4 while he was demoing FaceTime that, “this is one of those moments that reminds us why we do what we do.”

The main difference between FaceTime and all other video chat platforms that came before it is the ease of use and the quality of video, especially back in 2010.  All of the video chatting software before this was hard to set up and use.  “Skype” and “Oovoo” required download and setup, along with an account that had to be made, and it was just much more difficult to get on and connect with someone.  FaceTime came as an app already on the iPhone and was linked to your cell phone number, so you could start making calls immediately.

Also, the quality of video was much better than anyone had seen before.  People that used Skype noted that there was a lag between the video and audio on the screen, while the same people said that FaceTime did not have that problem at all (study done by Whitson Gordon in 2011 for Business and Technology on LifeHacker.com).

FaceTime is a technological advancement that has made it much easier for people to communicate in a more personal way, and it just keeps getting better.  As the new operating systems keep coming out, as well as the new phones, tablets, and computers, the better FaceTime gets. Steve Jobs had a lot to say in 2010 after demonstrating FaceTime at his launch presentation, but described FaceTime very simply.

“That is FaceTime,” he said.  “And it’s, well, it’s just great.”