When I first used FaceTime on the iPhone I knew it was only a matter of time before Apple would bring this to the Mac. I thought they would naturally add it to iChat, which is already pre-installed on most Macs. However Apple chose to release a stand alone app just for FaceTime. While there are plenty of ways to video chat, FaceTime feels a bit more like a personal video call rather than your average video chat. 5 interesting things about FaceTime, after the jump.
1. Aspect ratio.
The portrait aspect seemed a bit odd at first. Almost all video chat I use are either square or landscape. The aspect ratio makes sense in a 1 to 1 video call—you see more of the person and less of the background. It feels a bit more personal. I also found it pretty neat to be able to flip the orientation on the computer screen by rotating my phone.
2. No more screen names.
I'm used to having a buddy list on iChat—it tells me when my friends are online, if they have a web camera, etc. On FaceTime you have a long list of people from your address book. You sign in with your Apple ID and make calls using people's email addresses or iPhone phone numbers. It seems odd at first, but if you look at it more like a land line phone rather than a chat service, it makes some sense. You'll still have to ask people if they use FaceTime, but if they do all you'll need is their e-mail address in order to chat with them (which you may already have in your address book).
3. Runs in the background.
When I got my first FaceTime call, I was surprised because I didn't have it running. FaceTime simply runs in the background—when you get a call it rings and an "accept/decline" window pops up. Again, it feels more like an incoming land line phone call than a video chat request.
4. Simple single use design.
FaceTime is only video calling—no instant messaging or file sharing. With instant messaging constantly adding more features, it's refreshing to see a single use stand alone app. This app seems more approachable and straight foward to use for the less tech savvy.
5. Built into mobile devices.
The big difference with FaceTime and other chat services becomes apparent when chatting with someone on an iPhone. It really starts feeling like video phone calls. The same can be said using Yahoo! Messenger on the iPhone, but having FaceTime integrated with your phone app really streamlines the experience. I could imagine someone buying an iPod Touch for an elderly person simply for video phone use.