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Facetime Audio is one of IOS7's best features

technologyEdward KiledjianComment

VoIP is a fantastic way to freely (or cheaply) connect to friends and family flung across all 4 corners of the world. But even with all of the technological advances made in recent years, VoIP calling is not pleasant and comes with dozens of gotchas:

  • Does the person use the same VoIP platform?
  • Does the person have the VoIP app open? 
  • Many apps have poorly implemented codecs which lead to bad voice quality and the sound cutting-in and out

Facetime (implemented in IOS 6) was a fantastic way to keep in touch with family and friends. As long as both parties had Apple products (which is common) the technology was extremely well designed and integrated into the OS. It made video calling as friction-less as possible and dare I say it, enjoyable.

Now Apple is leveraging that Facetime technology to bring high quality and reliable VoIP calling to its customers. Did I mention this is being offered for free? 

Why now? 

It is much easier to build a VoIP (voice) app than a video chatting one.  Video introduces many more technological challenges which means it is often introduced after an initial voice offering. Why did Apple do video first?

Facetime audio is a free and better alternative to traditional cell phone voice calling. It doesn't require minutes, it doesn't need long distance charges and the quality is immeasurably better than that of a traditional cell call. 

When Apple released iMessage , it cost the carriers millions in lost SMS fees. Now Facetime audio may impact their only remaining cash cow, minute charges. Apple probably had to do some convincing of the major players before unleashing it into the world.

The Facetime audio revolution

Just like most iPhone users switched from SMS to iMessage, I expect most of them to jump from traditional calling to Facetime Audio (eventually). 

I know many Android fans will claim Google has had voice conferencing for a while, but [ as a user of both platforms] Apple's implementations are always cleaner and easier to use. Apple's Facetime is embedded into the base OS which means there is no need to start the app, no need to create another account, download another app or learn a new tool. It works like every other Apple tool, right out of the box.

Not only is it easy to use but the call quality is incredible. It sounds even better than HD Voice (which very few north american carriers support anyway). Once you use it, going back to regular cell phone conversations feels like you are talking into a can.

Facetime makes IOS sticky

Facetime is one of those technologies that "traps" users and prevents them from switching platforms. I often consider switching my primary device to an Android one but most of my friends, family and contacts are on iPhone which means losing Facetime, iMessage, Photostreams, etc is too painful.

Facetime will keep iPhone users married to the ecosystem...