iPhone 4 FaceTime doesn't need a mobile signal to work

Posted:
in iPhone edited March 2014
The new FaceTime video calling feature of iPhone 4 does not require mobile service after first use, enabling users to establish video chat from any WiFi hotspot, even while in Airplane Mode.



In reviewing FaceTime and mobile performance, AppleInsider originally reported that that making a FaceTime call requires an activated phone with service. However, that's only true for the first FaceTime session made from the phone.



Subsequent calls to FaceTime contacts, including users you've never contacted before, can be placed with mobile service turned off completely, such as when flying on a plane with WiFi service (where regulations prevent users from placing mobile phone calls.)



Readers have reported being able to connect via FaceTime from locations where they have no mobile service (including an airplane). Sure enough, we could successfully set up test calls between two iPhone 4 users across the country while both were in Airplane Mode with only WiFi turned on.



It is also possible to call, without any mobile service, a new contact you've never previously established a FaceTime chat with, although this must be done from Contacts (create a contact if necessary, then open it and hit the FaceTime button). The standard phone dialer keypad offers no option to call a number using FaceTime directly (yet).







How FaceTime works



Sources say the reason FaceTime needs initial phone service is because the first time it ever places a video call, it sends a message to Apple's gatekeeper server, which then registers the user's phone number as a FaceTime-capable number. After registering, the phone number likely "works more or less like an E.164 alias in a H.323 call," according a developer who works with video conferencing equipment.



It's likely that Apple uses a mechanism similar to Back To My Mac to re-register the network location of iPhone 4 users so that they can accept incoming calls from any hotspot without manually logging into a "Buddy List," a solution that would enable FaceTime to work without a mobile carrier. BTMM enables MobileMe users to set up a secure IPv6 tunnel back to their home network from any remote location, without needing to open up firewall ports or expose any information publicly.



Apple hasn't yet presented any developer documentation explaining how FaceTime does its magic, but it has announced plans to openly release the specification in a way that anyone can implement.



Existing video conferencing standards



H.323 is the ITU standard for videoconferencing over a LAN, ISDN (H.320), or other IP network. A very low bit rate relative of the standard (H.324) was adapted for mobile networks to result in the 3GPP's 3G-324M, a circuit switched video chat standard that works over 3G networks (and is built into most Nokia phones).



FaceTime is based upon the more modern H.264 video codec (3G-324M uses H.263 "DiVX-era") for more efficient delivery of better quality video. It is also packet switched (an IP network) rather than circuit switched (a phone system connection) 3G-324M, meaning it can operate over WiFi without paying for mobile bandwidth.



In the future, FaceTime will also be able to work over 3G and 4G mobile networks as well, Apple says. Using packet switching also makes FaceTime potentially compatible with non-phone devices (like iPod touch) as well as computers running Apple's iChat AV or compatible software.



Like iChat AV, FaceTime is based upon the IETF's SIP technology rather than ISDN-oriented ITU's H.323. Modern video conferencing equipment often now supports both H.323 and SIP, meaning that iPhone 4 FaceTime could likely be adapted to call into large scale, multipoint video conferencing systems hosting remote participants from around the world.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 71
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Like iChat AV, FaceTime is based upon the IETF's SIP technology rather than ISDN-oriented ITU's H.323. Modern video conferencing equipment often now supports both H.323 and SIP, meaning that iPhone 4 FaceTime could likely be adapted to call into large scale, multipoint video conferencing systems hosting remote participants from around the world.



    So long Adobe Connect (old Macromedia Breeze) and a bunch of other web conference technology companies, nice knowing ya.
  • Reply 2 of 71
    ivladivlad Posts: 740member
    Not sure why apple didn't just name that iChat. It's pretty much same thing.



    Facetime sounds like a spa treatment for your face. =)
  • Reply 3 of 71
    libertyforalllibertyforall Posts: 1,297member
    So WHEN is Apple going to release the FaceTime standard to the community to implement? What is the holdup? Why didn't 10.6.4 add support in iChat? Where is the iPhone 3GS support?
  • Reply 4 of 71
    dr_lhadr_lha Posts: 236member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by libertyforall View Post


    So WHEN is Apple going to release the FaceTime standard to the community to implement? What is the holdup? Why didn't 10.6.4 add support in iChat? Where is the iPhone 3GS support?



    So impatient and demanding!
  • Reply 5 of 71
    gqbgqb Posts: 1,934member
    So does this mean that after the first connection, you don't have to have messaging enabled either?

    I don't have or want messaging on my iPhone. (Don't get me started on the rip-off that is the messaging pricing from AT&T.)

    But if I can enable it for one month of limited in order to activate FaceTime, I'll do that.



    What's with the requirement for messaging in the first place?
  • Reply 6 of 71
    applegreenapplegreen Posts: 421member
    Facetime with iPod touch? Don't need AT&T ? Save a lot of money?
  • Reply 7 of 71
    joe hsjoe hs Posts: 488member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iVlad View Post


    Not sure why apple didn't just name that iChat. It's pretty much same thing.



    Facetime sounds like a spa treatment for your face. =)



    some things start with "i", iMac, iPod, iChat,

    some things start with "Mac", Mac Pro, MacBook,

    some things end with "Time", QuickTime, FaceTime
  • Reply 8 of 71
    prof. peabodyprof. peabody Posts: 2,860member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by libertyforall View Post


    ... Where is the iPhone 3GS support?



    This is just stupid. The 3Gs doesn't have the camera to support face-time. Why would anyone waste the amount of time and effort required when the handset doesn't even have the camera and therefore only a few desperate losers would ever even need or use it?
  • Reply 9 of 71
    Right, I tried this when I first got the phone and it worked, so nothing new here. But, what I'd like to know, is next year, when the iPhone 5 is out, can I give my current iPhone 4 to my parents to use as a WiFi only device (no cell service) and FaceTime with them with my new phone? And, since the old phone won't have cell service anymore, but will hypothetically still be registered with Apple's FT service with the old number, same as the new phone, how will connecting FT calls work?
  • Reply 10 of 71
    nasseraenasserae Posts: 3,157member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iVlad View Post


    Not sure why apple didn't just name that iChat. It's pretty much same thing.



    Facetime sounds like a spa treatment for your face. =)



    My guess is that Apple will integrate iChat into iOS. So you will probably see iChat Call button next to that FaceTime button in your contacts. My other prediction is that Apple will integrate iChat with game center in iOS 4.
  • Reply 11 of 71
    jlljll Posts: 2,709member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by libertyforall View Post


    Where is the iPhone 3GS support?



    You?re joking right?
  • Reply 12 of 71
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by GQB View Post


    So does this mean that after the first connection, you don't have to have messaging enabled either?

    I don't have or want messaging on my iPhone. (Don't get me started on the rip-off that is the messaging pricing from AT&T.)

    But if I can enable it for one month of limited in order to activate FaceTime, I'll do that.



    What's with the requirement for messaging in the first place?



    You've never needed messaging for FT.
  • Reply 13 of 71
    gustavgustav Posts: 824member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post


    This is just stupid. The 3Gs doesn't have the camera to support face-time. Why would anyone waste the amount of time and effort required when the handset doesn't even have the camera and therefore only a few desperate losers would ever even need or use it?



    Do you think my relatives want to look at me? No, they want to look at my kids. If I had FaceTime, I'd use the rear-facing camera almost exclusively. I'm sure I'm not alone in this and I'm sure others can come up with more good uses for the rear-facing camera.
  • Reply 14 of 71
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Well, it works exactly how I expected it to. Now we just need to find out if they've limited it to requiring a phone number or work, therefore disallowing it to work with iPod Touches and PCs, or if the management server will also allow for user accounts, like Back to My Mac, to be used for maintaining direct IP addresses.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iVlad View Post


    Not sure why apple didn't just name that iChat. It's pretty much same thing.



    FaceTime isn't just for Apple. It's for any and all who wish to utilize it.
  • Reply 15 of 71
    mi_satmi_sat Posts: 39member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iVlad View Post


    Not sure why apple didn't just name that iChat. It's pretty much same thing.



    Facetime sounds like a spa treatment for your face. =)



    I think I rented a porno called Facetime.
  • Reply 16 of 71
    gaversgavers Posts: 14member
    Quote:

    enabling users to establish video chat from any WiFi hotspot, even while in Airplane Mode.



    Since when does Airplane Mode allow WiFi? Another bang-up reporting job by Daniel Eran Dilger!
  • Reply 17 of 71
    jupiteronejupiterone Posts: 1,564member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by gavers View Post


    Since when does Airplane Mode allow WiFi? Another bang-up reporting job by Daniel Eran Dilger!



    Well strictly speaking, when you turn on Airplane Mode, WiFi is disabled. However, you can go back and turn on just WiFi, which essentially is still "airplane mode".
  • Reply 18 of 71
    prof. peabodyprof. peabody Posts: 2,860member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gustav View Post


    Do you think my relatives want to look at me? No, they want to look at my kids. If I had FaceTime, I'd use the rear-facing camera almost exclusively. I'm sure I'm not alone in this and I'm sure others can come up with more good uses for the rear-facing camera.



    Well then you are using it wrong.



    Its a video. calling. protocol.



    If you want to show your kids to your relatives making a movie and sending it or a link to it would be far more effective.



    My point was mainly that you are complaining (and I didn't even get into the other four or five complaints from your post), about a video calling protocol not supporting your device when your device is incapable of doing video conferencing. That makes it more of a "bitch" than a reasonable complaint.



    I get that you want this, and that you may have good reasons for wanting it, but my answer was more along the lines of "why would Apple (or anyone) support that?" i.e. - from the point of view of the provider, it makes no sense at all to support the iPhone 3Gs when it doesn't have the necessary camera.



    You might as well ask why a point and shoot video camera doesn't support the same protocol, or a Canon Powershot, or a Flip HD. The existence of a simple camera (especially when it's facing the wrong way), does not equate to "videoconferencing capable device."



    This is the same kind of complaint as those that ask why Snow Leopard is not supported on G4's. The answer is pretty obvious.
  • Reply 19 of 71
    cubertcubert Posts: 728member
    Who are those two toolbags in the picture?
  • Reply 20 of 71
    wovelwovel Posts: 956member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by gavers View Post


    Since when does Airplane Mode allow WiFi? Another bang-up reporting job by Daniel Eran Dilger!



    Since the beginning of time...You simply turn Wifi back on. You may not know this, but many airplanes actually have Internet access. Welcome to 2010.
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