What Is FaceTime?

Posted on June 7, 2010

What Is FaceTime?

Steve Jobs usually saves the meatiest bit of keynotes for the end. But WWDC’s “One More Thing” was a little tame: FaceTime, a video chat system for iPhone 4. So, what’s special about FaceTime, and how does it work?

First, let’s get this out of the way: Yes, FaceTime is just video chat, similar to what the HTC Evo demonstrated last week, and not unlike what my British LG slider from 2006 could pull off, over 3G. But regardless, video chat hitting the iPhone is a big deal. Here’s what we know:

• It only works over Wi-Fi for now, though Jobs says they’re working with carriers to get their networks up to speed to support cellular video calling later.

• It works with both the front and rear cameras of the phone, though I suppose those entail drastically different use scenarios. (Front-facing camera for “hello, this is my face!; rear camera for “hey, look at this!”)

• It’s an open standard, meaning that other manufacturers could tap into the protocol if they want to. It’s kind of like a standalone network, in a way; like a Skype, or an iChat. (Presumably, iChat is too loaded of a name for a industry wide standard, so they went with something brand-neutral, like FaceTime.) Says MacRumors:

[FaceTime is] Based on many open standards, h.264, AAC, SIP, STUN, TURN, ICE, RTP, SRTP, Apple going to standards body tomorrow to make FaceTime an open industry standard.

SIP? I guess Apple just build their own little VoIP network, sort of!

• It’s only available for the iPhone 4, for now.

By John Herrman

Posted in: GETGIT