FaceTime Audio is The Best Feature in iOS 7
After 12 days of using iOS 7 on my iPhone 5, I can proudly declare that FaceTime Audio is the best new feature in iOS 7.
I like the Control Center, new Camera app, AirDrop and the overall design of new UI. These additions are great, but FaceTime Audio is fantastic. Let me tell you why.
Integration, Integration, Integration
VoIP calling is not something new and revolutionary. Apps like Skype, Viber, and many others existed for years now, but by adding audio calling to FaceTime, Apple made FaceTime the real contender to become the king of VoIP calling.
The most significant difference between all existing services and FaceTime is a very close integration of Apple’s service into the iOS. It is integrated so well, and I don’t even notice the difference between making regular calls and using FaceTime Audio.
You can make FaceTime Audio calls from the Phone app, Contacts app, FaceTime app, and iMessage app. If you edit your favorite list in FaceTime app, it changes favorite contacts list in Phone app as well. All apps work in harmony with each other.
Now I use FaceTime Audio every day, and I don’t understand why Apple didn’t introduce it alongside video calling when it originally released FaceTime. Maybe there were some troubles with cellular carriers, maybe something else, but after using it for just 12 days, I cannot imagine my iPhone without this great feature.
Great voice quality
FaceTime was an excellent service before, but sometimes it was difficult to use. For example, I had troubles using it if I had a weak internet connection. I couldn’t hear the person I was calling to because it couldn’t handle the voice and video at the same time.
Making FaceTime video calls uses much more internet data, while the quality of audio sacrificed for the more smooth experience.
With FaceTime Audio, calling is much more stable, because it doesn’t require a reliable internet connection. It also allows audio quality to be improved dramatically compared to the audio quality of FaceTime video calls.
Making a local FaceTime Audio call on iPhone is very simple, and there is no much difference between a regular call and FaceTime audio call. It is great to use, but making an international FaceTime Audio call is an entirely different story — it is a pleasure.
Before, when I was making an expensive international call, I had to think about the time I spend talking on the phone, but there is no need to do that anymore. FaceTime Audio makes international calls no different to regular local calls.
I travel abroad a lot, and I always need to communicate with people who live in other countries. Until now I used Skype and traditional international calls, but from now on, I plan to start using the FaceTime feature.
I know that I have to make regular international calls sometimes because not everybody has an iOS device, but since the majority of people whom I have to be in contact with are already using iPhones and iPads, FaceTime is enough for the most of the time.
FaceTime Audio is not perfect, and it certainly needs improvements, but it is as close to perfect as it gets these days. The following is how I think Apple can make FaceTime even better.
Make FaceTime Audio default way to make calls
For people who understand how iMessage works, the best way to think of FaceTime Audio is as iMessage for phone calls. iMessage automatically detects if the recipient of your message uses iPhone and sends iMessage instead of regular SMS. Because iMessage integrated into the Messages app, users don’t even notice the difference between sending regular SMS messages and sending iMessages.
FaceTime Audio is a little bit different. To make a voice call using FaceTime, you have to click on the FaceTime Audio (or video) button. If you don’t do that and click on the phone number, it makes a regular call over the cell network even if the person you call to uses iPhone.
If Apple could make FaceTime Audio calls work the same way as iMessage, and automatically detect whatever the person you are about to call have an iPhone and make a FaceTime Audio call instead, it will improve the mobile calling experience.
Easier switching between video and audio calling
I hope Apple makes switching between video calls and audio-only calls easier because now it is limited. Now you can switch from voice calls to video calls, but it is impossible to do the opposite. I hope that with the future updates Apple addresses this limitation.
Support other platforms
If I remember correctly, Steve Jobs himself said that Apple would open FaceTime protocol, so other VoIP clients would be able to make and receive FaceTime calls. It never happened. FaceTime stayed as an iOS and Mac OS X only service.
I understand that Apple wants to encourage new customers to buy iOS devices, but providing essential apps for other platforms may help dramatically increase the popularity of FaceTime. They can keep the full-featured apps exclusive to iOS and Mac OS X, but at the same time provide essential apps for Android, Windows, and other platforms. I think that customers who want to use full-featured FaceTime buy iOS devices in any case.
For now, even Mac OS X doesn’t support FaceTime audio-only calls. I expect Apple to add this functionality with the release of Mac OS X Mavericks, and maybe in coming months, Apple will expand the FaceTime functionality to other platforms as well.