iPhone 4 FaceTime video calls won't use cell minutes

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
An Apple representative has clarified that the new FaceTime video calls won't use up carrier minutes, even when a video chat is originated during a phone call.



The news, highlighted report by Dan Frommer of Silicon Alley Insider, means that users won't have to worry about how long they talk when establishing video calls over WiFi.



"The voice call ends as soon as the FaceTime call connects," Frommer wrote. "The FaceTime call is over WiFi so does not use carrier minutes."



That's good news for users with AT&T, as it means FaceTime won't be dependent upon the quality or continuity of a background 3G mobile connection. It's also good news for anyone who feared that the end of unlimited data plans would be lethal to the new FaceTime feature. At WWDC, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs noted that the new feature would initially be WiFi only, but that the company was working with providers to figure out how to accommodate calls over mobile networks in the future.



Dong so would involve some significant engineering issues, because unlike other forms of data that might be okay to send lazily (such as email attachments), video calls demand low latency and high bandwidth to deliver a functional and acceptable level service.







Phone required for FaceTime?



It appears that FaceTime may require a phone number to establish a video call; Apple has only stated so far that users can switch to a video call from a regular conversation (as Jobs demonstrated on stage during the WWDC keynote) or may initiate a FaceTime call from their contacts.



If not, it is very likely, but not yet confirmed, that Apple could also initiate FaceTime calls from a future iPod touch outfitted with an appropriate camera. It's also possible that desktop Macs using iChat could be adapted to support FaceTime, as long as the new standard isn't dependent upon making a phone connection to establish the video call.



Even if the current implementation of FaceTime delivered with iPhone 4 does depend upon a phone call to find the recipient without using a buddy list, it could still be feasible to create non-phone clients that can join FaceTime conversations using an alternative connection initiation method, such as those used by iChat AV (which uses the AIM buddy list, XMPP/Jabber listings, or automatic Bonjour discovery of other users on the local network).



How FaceTime differs from existing cellular video calling



FaceTime differs significantly from existing 3GPP (3G Partnership project, a mobile industry consortium behind such standards as GSM, UMTS and LTE) videophone services both in that it uses WiFi for high quality video (3GPP standards allow for only extremely limited mobile bandwidth, yet are still very expensive per minute) and that it is built upon Internet Engineering Task Force standards rather than mobile industry specifications.



This makes 3GPP video calls comparable to SMS messages rather than IETF standards-based email or instant messaging. Even worse, the mobile industry created 3GPP video calling as a circuit-switched technology that is fundamentally incompatible with packet-switched networks like those used by Internet-connected computers, meaning that a PC-based client can't connect to a phone without specialized phone hardware.



By dropping the mobile carrier's network after establishing a FaceTime session, Apple is pushing phone customers toward open Internet networking, the same way iPhone earlier prioritized free email and attachment messaging in preference to SMS and MMS, which are usually billed as add on services greatly in excess of their true cost in terms of sending their actual data.



Other phones capable of video calls, such as the Android-based HTC Evo sold by Sprint, do not use 3GPP, but rely upon third party software that reviews have found to be difficult to use and problematic.



FaceTime vs. the mobile industry



Apple has said it hopes to establish FaceTime as an open, common standard for making video calls. If it is successful, the effort will transfer the future of potentially lucrative, high bandwidth video calls to common data providers rather than tying video telephony to the domain of phone companies as 3GPP does.



The effort could also revolutionize local communications between employees of a company, or between conference participants, as WiFi networks can be set up by anyone within the largely unrestricted, unregulated spectrum allocated to it. Customers tied to a specific network (such as AT&T) have limited options for increasing the availability and reliability of their mobile network.



Cellular signal boosters and repeaters are difficult to successfully provision, while femtocell devices such as AT&T's MicroCell 3G still use up subscribers' cellular plan minutes because the call minutes and data they handle are forwarded over the Internet back to the provider, which still needs to route the data through its system.



In contrast, FaceTime calls are made directly from one iPhone 4 to another over the Internet, with no centralized phone company needed to route or manage the calls.



Apple began pushing IETF standards-based video calling in 2003 with iChat AV, a desktop application that uses many of the same technologies as FaceTime. Primary competitors to iChat and FaceTime, including Skype, largely use proprietary protocols for establishing Voice over IP and video calls because there are no widely available and well established standards to use.



How soon other smartphone platforms will begin to implement Apple's FaceTime specification remains to be seen, but the company has achieved widespread use of its WebKit browser technology, which now powers the majority of all mobile web browsers, and subsequently solid uptake of HTML5, which includes many technologies originated by Apple, including Canvas drawing and many CSS transform concepts used in web animation.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 59
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    An Apple representative has clarified that the new FaceTime video calls won't use up carrier minutes, even when a video chat is originated during a phone call.



    Snooze alert. Video calling is nothing new. Been doing it since what, 2004 or 2005? Wake me when something interesting about video calling is reported. Unless it happens over 3G, it will be dead in the water. How many people just happen to be sitting under an access point just so they can make video calls? I mean come on. This is a non-story.
  • Reply 2 of 59
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,138member
    The video-calling feature isn't really the news. Drop the video part of Facetime and simply make it wifi-to-wfi calling. I don't need to see your ugly mug, but I would love to not use minutes for a call.



    Even the cheapest-ass phones support wifi calls (without using Skype). Why can't my iPhone do it?
  • Reply 3 of 59
    eyepadeyepad Posts: 39member
    ummm, since it HAS to be iPhone 4 to iPhone 4 it would be considered mobile to mobile anyways.

    duhhhh mobile to mobile is free....
  • Reply 4 of 59
    jerseymacjerseymac Posts: 408member
    I don't understand why I can't make a facetime call to a computer. Why only to another iPhone?
  • Reply 5 of 59
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,138member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by eyepad View Post


    ummm, since it HAS to be iPhone 4 to iPhone 4 it would be considered mobile to mobile anyways.

    duhhhh mobile to mobile is free....



    I'm talking about to ANY phone.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Jerseymac View Post


    I don't understand why I can't make a facetime call to a computer. Why only to another iPhone?



    I think we just need patience for that. Perhaps after the AT&T exclusivity ends?
  • Reply 6 of 59
    I don't believe Apple will introduce FaceTime with the iPod Touch, any time soon. It's probably best just to keep on their phones for now, if they really wanna be selling iPhones. I may believe a 3.2 or 5 megapixel camera, but not the front facing camera on the iPod Touch. Either way, Apple will have to redesign the FaceTime software because in order to make a FaceTime call, don't you first need to go through the cellular process? Call>FaceTime>Drop the network>Chat? I don't even think Apple will do a cellular deviced iPod Touch just for FaceTime.
  • Reply 7 of 59
    cvaldes1831cvaldes1831 Posts: 1,832member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Eriamjh View Post


    The video-calling feature isn't really the news. Drop the video part of Facetime and simply make it wifi-to-wfi calling. I don't need to see your ugly mug, but I would love to not use minutes for a call.



    Even the cheapest-ass phones support wifi calls (without using Skype). Why can't my iPhone do it?



    I would love to know how to get WiFi calls on my ghetto Motorola V195s (I'm using T-Mobile Pay As You Go prepaid service). As far as I can tell, there is no WiFi hardware in my phone.



    It's a bit convoluted, but your iPhone/iPod touch can make/accept WiFi calls. Get a Google Voice account. Have a Gizmo5 SIP account (they aren't taking new signups right now). Configure Google Voice to ring your Gizmo5 SIP number. Install a SIP app with push notifications on your iPhone/iPod touch (Acrobits Softphone, Acrobits Gizmo5 client, perhaps WeePhone, maybe a few others). Use the old Google Voice mobile site to ring back your Gizmo5 account. Answer the ringback call quickly on your iPhone/iPod touch before it goes to GV voicemail.



    A bit of a kludge, but not bad in a pinch. Note that some of these iPhone SIP clients will now work over 3G data connections, but you're still using minutes. I have done this before on my iPod touch. This means free calls to the United States (via WiFi) when I am traveling abroad. I can shove a local carrier's SIM into my Motorola dumbphone for local calls: no hideous roaming charges.
  • Reply 8 of 59
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,301member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by alexhasfun28 View Post


    I don't believe Apple will introduce FaceTime with the iPod Touch, any time soon. It's probably best just to keep on their phones for now, if they really wanna be selling iPhones. I may believe a 3.2 or 5 megapixel camera, but not the front facing camera on the iPod Touch. Either way, Apple will have to redesign the FaceTime software because in order to make a FaceTime call, don't you first need to go through the cellular process? Call>FaceTime>Drop the network>Chat? I don't even think Apple will do a cellular deviced iPod Touch just for FaceTime.



    I think for competitive reasons, and to further the goal of increasing the number of iOS-enabled devices, the iPod touch will get a camera in 6 months. Device-to-device communication will solidify Apple's position as the pre-eminent communications device company. Parents and kids will blow this thing up once it migrates to WiMax or cell services.
  • Reply 9 of 59
    bonklersbonklers Posts: 54member
    one more reason to jailbreak.



    i'm sure that ANY iphone will have facetime, once its jailbroken. even factime over 3g will probably be do-able with a jailbreak.
  • Reply 10 of 59
    cvaldes1831cvaldes1831 Posts: 1,832member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Eriamjh View Post


    I'm talking about to ANY phone.





    I think we just need patience for that. Perhaps after the AT&T exclusivity ends?



    I don't think it has much to do with AT&T's exclusivity. After all, it appears that FaceTime would work between two iPhone 4 users who are on completely different mobile operator.



    Also, the FaceTime video call isn't really using 3G. It switches to WiFi after the initial call has been placed. If there's a way that Apple can initiate the FaceTime handshake over WiFi, whatever, it should be fairly easy.



    My guess is that Apple simply ran out of time to include additional functionality. They are minimal staffed and probably didn't have the resources (people) to get a computer-based FaceTime application working.
  • Reply 11 of 59
    cvaldes1831cvaldes1831 Posts: 1,832member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bonklers View Post


    one more reason to jailbreak.



    i'm sure that ANY iphone will have facetime, once its jailbroken. even factime over 3g will probably be do-able with a jailbreak.



    Yeah, however there's no front-facing camera on older iPhones. It would be a one-way street.



    Better off buying iPhone 4 rather than jailbreaking an older iPhone for this.
  • Reply 12 of 59
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post


    I think for competitive reasons, and to further the goal of increasing the number of iOS-enabled devices, the iPod touch will get a camera in 6 months. Device-to-device communication will solidify Apple's position as the pre-eminent communications device company. Parents and kids will blow this thing up once it migrates to WiMax or cell services.



    Do you mean front-facing camera? or just a regular ol' camera on the back of the iPod Touch? The camera i understand, i can actually see it happen this 2010 iPod Touch line. But a front-facing camera? i don't think so. It will be smart, but what if people just soon drop their iPhones, and just get an iTouch and a simple phone from another carrier? That's what they're simply doing, right now! It will will drive iPhone sales down,.. way down if they add a front facing camera to the iPod Touch. So in reality, that move wouldn't be so smart afterall.

    Also, to be able to make a FaceTime call, you will need to make a call first, then switch it over to FaceTime once your call is connected. It will detect if that person is iPhone 4 compatible and will turn the FaceTime icon on if you would like to use it.
  • Reply 13 of 59
    chronsterchronster Posts: 1,894member
    Awesome. No more limitation on how long you and your wife can masturbate to each other on your iphone.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sapporobabyrtrns View Post


    Snooze alert. Video calling is nothing new. Been doing it since what, 2004 or 2005? Wake me when something interesting about video calling is reported. Unless it happens over 3G, it will be dead in the water. How many people just happen to be sitting under an access point just so they can make video calls? I mean come on. This is a non-story.



    Someone made a good point a while back and it's this: Don't quote the entire article
  • Reply 14 of 59
    radster360radster360 Posts: 540member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by alexhasfun28 View Post


    Do you mean front-facing camera? or just a regular ol' camera on the back of the iPod Touch? The camera i understand, i can actually see it happen this 2010 iPod Touch line. But a front-facing camera? i don't think so. It will be smart, but what if people just soon drop their iPhones, and just get an iTouch and a simple phone from another carrier? That's what they're simply doing, right now! It will will drive iPhone sales down,.. way down if they add a front facing camera to the iPod Touch. So in reality, that move wouldn't be so smart afterall.

    Also, to be able to make a FaceTime call, you will need to make a call first, then switch it over to FaceTime once your call is connected. It will detect if that person is iPhone 4 compatible and will turn the FaceTime icon on if you would like to use it.



    First of all, I don't think iTouch purchases would offset iPhone customer like you say, even if iTouch is same featured as iPhone - the phone. BTW, iTouch will always be generate behind. Secondly, remember Apple doesn't sell subsidized phone (carriers are eating that cost), so to them it is practically same.
  • Reply 15 of 59
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by cvaldes1831 View Post


    Yeah, however there's no front-facing camera on older iPhones. It would be a one-way street.



    Better off buying iPhone 4 rather than jailbreaking an older iPhone for this.





    While you are correct in that buying an iphone 4 would be smarter than jailbreaking an older one to make it do facetime, (if thats even possible which i would doubt it due to strings and API calls and such that look for hardware simply not present on any older physical phone)....



    I think what the parent poster meant - or should have said - was that after jailbreaking, any iPhone 4 will have FaceTime over 3G or Wifi. or maybe bluetooth i dunno. That'd be my interest in face timing. As someone who had the Benm.at tethering hack since 3.0 came out back in the day, I can vouch for the fact that video chats (via ichat tethered thru my phone over 3G) work really well. I didn't use this feature too much since i'd basically be the cause of such bandwidth issues considering in live in major metro areas, but on the 3 or 4 times i did, i could sustain a video chat, lag free, for hours if i wanted, while answering phonecalls and still having the chat running... so its *possible* But, yeah, i think thats a better way to look at the idea of jailbreaking with regard to facetime.
  • Reply 16 of 59
    jpcgjpcg Posts: 114member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sapporobabyrtrns View Post


    Snooze alert. Video calling is nothing new. Been doing it since what, 2004 or 2005? Wake me when something interesting about video calling is reported. Unless it happens over 3G, it will be dead in the water. How many people just happen to be sitting under an access point just so they can make video calls? I mean come on. This is a non-story.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Eriamjh View Post


    The video-calling feature isn't really the news. Drop the video part of Facetime and simply make it wifi-to-wfi calling. I don't need to see your ugly mug, but I would love to not use minutes for a call.



    Even the cheapest-ass phones support wifi calls (without using Skype). Why can't my iPhone do it?



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Jerseymac View Post


    I don't understand why I can't make a facetime call to a computer. Why only to another iPhone?



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bonklers View Post


    one more reason to jailbreak.



    i'm sure that ANY iphone will have facetime, once its jailbroken. even factime over 3g will probably be do-able with a jailbreak.



    Stop bitching around. The idea to initiate a internet VoIP call via a regular phonecall is new and a very good idea. If you call somebody and he has a capable device (soon also non iPhone headsets) the facetime button will pop up and you can make a videophone call without paying $2 a second like it has been before. You don't need to know anything about this other persons headset, nor bother him with signing up for anything, it just works.

    Sure there is skype and a bunch of sip clients, but you have to lobby all your friends to use the same.
  • Reply 17 of 59
    sheffsheff Posts: 1,407member
    Hmmm I guess free calling is a goodway to spin the lack of 3G voice chatting. However since mobile spectrum crunch will continue in the near to medium term future I think it's a good idea to go wifi only for now to deliver stellar video conferencing. I am sure 3d party pogroms will allow to use front facing camera over 3G with bad quality, but at least you will know that if you have wifi you can have a nice video call with someone else, especially if other phone makers adopt the technology.
  • Reply 18 of 59
    glockpopglockpop Posts: 69member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bonklers View Post


    one more reason to jailbreak.



    i'm sure that ANY iphone will have facetime, once its jailbroken. even factime over 3g will probably be do-able with a jailbreak.



    FaceTime isn't restricted from using 3G because of some artificial boundary Apple erected. It's because mobile 3G doesn't deliver the bandwidth and latency necessary to host a quality video chat.



    Have you ever used iChat AV? Have you ever tried to maintain a video chat over Internet access equivalent to 3G? If mobile 3G were able to support high quality video chat, then people would actually be doing it.



    Holy balls, the comments on this article are breathtakingly ignorant. The troll saying everyone's been doing mobile video chat for 7 years? no they haven't. Nokia's been enabling postage stamp video chat that is pretty much worthless, but costs up the ying-yang.
  • Reply 19 of 59
    wurm5150wurm5150 Posts: 763member
    I've never seen nor done video calls on a phone in which quality is acceptable...I'll have to see how good the quality is FaceTime on wifi. I've done video calls via 3G, it just doesn't cut it.
  • Reply 20 of 59
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Glockpop View Post


    FaceTime isn't restricted from using 3G because of some artificial boundary Apple erected. It's because mobile 3G doesn't deliver the bandwidth and latency necessary to host a quality video chat.



    Have you ever used iChat AV? Have you ever tried to maintain a video chat over Internet access equivalent to 3G? If mobile 3G were able to support high quality video chat, then people would actually be doing it.



    Holy balls, the comments on this article are breathtakingly ignorant. The troll saying everyone's been doing mobile video chat for 7 years? no they haven't. Nokia's been enabling postage stamp video chat that is pretty much worthless, but costs up the ying-yang.



    without wanting to retype what i posted above, i'd suggest you go read my post. But heres he bullet points:



    - yes I HAVE had experience doing a video chat over 3G. In a congested AT&T area (los angeles) and yes it works just fine.

    - i used the benm.at tethering hack and successfully did video chats about 3-4 times on separate occasions. also a few times while i was also on a phone call on that same tethered iphone at the same time.

    -looked the same as an ichat over wifi as far as lag is concerned. barely any lag at all.
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