Monday, September 20, 2010

How the iPhone is Changing Video Chat

I've never been a fan of webcams. People can easily get distracted with web surfing while chatting, you're rooted to one place in front of your computer, and Skype has frequently produced technical problems for me. I even became so adamantly against webcams while abroad that I refused to video chat with my parents (I ended up calling them through Skype instead).

Although I had stayed away from video chatting, things quickly changed when I purchased an iPhone 4. The new iPhone comes standard with a feature called "Facetime", which turns your mobile device into a webcam. Suddenly, all the qualms I had with webcams disappeared.

Instead of having to haul my computer around, I can enter a wifi zone, pull my phone out of my pocket, and easily connect with other iPhone owners. There are two high-quality cameras on the device, one in the front and one in the back, with the option to switch between the two. Now when I reference something I am seeing, I don't have to lift my computer around but push a button to flip the camera view. I can now see what my camera is pointing at, as well as my family's reaction on the screen.

As opposed to computers, video chatting on the iPhone is convenient because phones are on us at all times. The iPhone's instant accessibility and ease of use also make video chatting easier and quicker. When my dad spontaneously calls to video chat, I can be away from my computer and still jump into a conversation. No longer do I have to go through the hassle of downloading or updating programs on my computer or worrying about compatibility issues. It's all there.

Having to hold the iPhone has also kept me constantly engaged in the conversation. I can no longer get away with multi-tasking on my phone and the ability to switch the screen dimensions and camera positions allow for some creativity while talking.

Although video chat can't solely run off AT&T's 3G network, I have experienced better video and audio quality then with Skype.

Now I use my computer to make calls and my phone to video chat. Ironic.


  1. Interesting post Nick, but what about the negative consequences that come along with iphone 4 and "facetime." It seems like this could be a huge invasion of privacy for teens, experiencing a a whole new world of mom looking over your shoulder. Just imagine sneaking out to a friends house you're maybe not supposed to be at, and having your mom demand that you show her where you are via facetime. Although you're able to carry around an incredible communication device in your pocket, you're also carrying around your mom and dad.


  2. Nick,I agree - video chatting on the iPhone is as convenient as video chatting on a cell phone can be, from what I can tell. (I don't have an iPhone. I do, however, have an extremely high brickbreaker score, just saying.)

    Having said that, wouldn't you agree that video chatting with someone who is on the couch next to you might be excessive?

    Yes, it's convenient and fun but is it practical? I guess I might use it from time-to-time, but I just don't envision myself becoming an avid user of video chatting on cell phones. Until I need to tell my daughter her braces look beautiful, I'm content with communicating on cell phones the way that they are.

  3. I agree that this new feature is convenient, however, how useful can it actually be when you're the only one out of your friends and family who have the new iphone? Then, it becomes a feature that seems cool, yet constantly goes unused. Perhaps Apple should look into advancing this "FaceTime" feature into an "iChat" compatible application. This way, iPhone 4 users can connect to all their friends and family who may not have the new iPhone yet, but who are avid users of the Mac computers. I believe that with the compatibility of FaceTime to iChat, the usage of the Videocam will significantly increase, and become even more convenient.