It’s great that AT&T opened FaceTime up but when will Apple?


Consumers scored a bit of a small win in the U.S. this week as AT&T decided to reverse course and allow FaceTime video calls over LTE for customers on tiered data plans. To be honest, the carrier should have done so from the beginning; here’s an excellent post from Chris Ziegler at the The Verge on why.

After the news hit, I actually considered buying an iPad mini with cellular connectivity since many of my contacts use iOS. I bought a Wi-Fi model of the mini — it’s replacing a Retina display iPad 3 for me — and I can still return it for a different model. That idea went out the window once I realized that FaceTime is still a silo, even though at launch, Steve Jobs said Apple would work to make it a standard┬ánotes a 2010 Computerworld article:

“Apple will ship tens of millions of FaceTime devices this calendar year, so there’s going to be a lot of people to talk to. FaceTime is based on H.264 video … and a bunch of alphabet-soup acronyms. We’re going to the standards bodies tomorrow and making FaceTime an open standard.”

As one who follows some standards boards, particular those in the wireless industry, I realize that such things take time. But remember: FaceTime was introduced in June 2010 and since that time, not a single piece of information suggests that Apple is working with any standards body to open up FaceTime for use on anything but iOS or OS X. Contrast that to my other heavily used video services, which are Google video chats now done through Google+ hangouts, and Skype.

Both of these services run on every device I own, regardless of platform. That means I’m accessible at any point in time, no matter where I am, what network I’m using and what device I have. Isn’t that the point of instant communications? It’s for these reasons that I use such services. In this day and age, we all want to be connected to our friends and peers without having to worry what device those people are using.

Listen, I love FaceTime. I find it to be one of the better performing video services out there and until my son moved in with me, it’s what I used to communicate with him daily. Two-and-a-half years after FaceTime was introduced, however, I don’t want to ping him on FaceTime, hoping he has his iPod touch with him only to see no response because he’s instead using his Android phone.

I know I’m oversimplifying here, but this is akin to limiting voice calls only to work on phones made by the same company. It’s a huge step backwards in an age where we’ve seen so much forward progress and the removal of communications silos.

If I could make one request it would be this, in my best Ronald Reagan impersonation: “Mr. Cook; Tear down this wall!” Let’s get FaceTime support through open standards and let the video calls flow on all platforms and devices already.

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