Yesterday, my parents finally jumped on the iOS bandwagon and got a couple of iPads. The first thing my mother wanted to do was test out FaceTime, a feature of iOS (and OS X) that has received lackluster attention from some tech pundits for being less useful than other popular video calling services like Skype. To my surprise, my initial thoughts on FaceTime were actually very inaccurate. After having an hour-long conversation with my mother and father, getting a tour of a redecorated home office, and being able to share moments as if I were there in person, I’ve decided to change my opinion and now consider FaceTime to be not only useful, but incredibly fun.
My parents aren’t tech pundits, programmers, super geeks, or anything of the sort. They’ve always been tech savvy, but their interest in all the latest gadgets has never been as high as my own. In short, they’re regular people that have found a lot of use in an app many tech reviewers and pundits shrugged off as just an extra feature that comes with Apple devices. In fact, one of my mother’s good friends (also not a geek herself) recently purchased an iPhone 4 specifically to use FaceTime.
Video and audio quality was very good and consistent throughout the call. My mother can reach me at my Mac, my iPhone, or my iPad wherever I may be. She can also reach me, in a video context, while she’s on the go without having to worry about my being logged in to Skype or some other app. During an hour of full video streaming, we experienced no noticeable choppiness. Everything was smooth, even when we frequently switched between the front-facing and rear cameras to show the other person something we were looking at.
Whether we were talking on the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or OS X, everything was consistent and there was no difference between them in terms of quality. Nothing was sent or received in super high-quality. This wouldn’t necessarily work for video podcasters doing interviews as well as some of the alternatives out there; this feature is made for families and friends to connect over long distances, and for that purpose, it fits perfectly.
After reading and hearing so many different negative responses to the built-in cameras on the iPad 2, I finally found a use for them and I have no serious complaints. FaceTime worked for me, and surprisingly well at that.