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Open Thread: FaceTime and the Need for Mobile Video Chat Etiquette

Since Apple (s AAPL) introduced the iPhone 4 and its new FaceTime video chat application, users are slowly getting used to the idea of being able to video chat in real-time no matter where they go (as long as they’re within range of a Wi-Fi connection).

But while there’s great opportunity in the freedom of always having a live video chat outlet available, users are still adjusting to the idea that they’re always carrying around portable video chat devices. People use their phones differently than laptops, desktops and other devices which currently offer video chat. In most cases, when it’s time to video chat, they’re sitting at a desk or have situated themselves in front of a camera.

Things are different when your phone is your camera. Video chat becomes more impromptu, and smartphone users interact with their phones in different ways than they would a video-enabled laptop. Users sleep next to their mobile devices, and if some studies (and anecdotal evidence) are to be believed, most smartphone users take their phones into the bathroom with them. In other words, not every mobile phone situation is a good FaceTime situation.

Perhaps more importantly, people have grown used to using their phones differently; as phones have become more mobile, so have users while they’re on the phone. It’s not unusual for them to be chatting in the midst of sporting events, grocery shopping, driving, or even just walking from place to place — none of which makes a good video chat experience.

With that in mind, here are a few simple guidelines for entering the brave new world of mobile video chat.

1. Ask if your partner is ready before sending a video chat request. This should go without saying, but you should know that whomever you’re planning to talk to is ready and in a place where they can comfortably chat.

2. Maintain eye contact. This goes for all video chat, but is especially true when you’re face-to-face with a mobile handset at arm’s length. It’s a lot more intimate. No one likes to think that there’s something in the corner of your eye that’s more interesting that the chat at hand, no pun intended. So unless you plan on sharing what you’re looking at — and conveniently enough, you can do so by pointing your camera in that direction — keep a steady gaze on your chat partner.

3. Sit still. Most mobile phone users are used to carrying on conversations while walking around. Don’t. That is, unless you plan on giving your FaceTime friend vertigo.

4. Stay away from crowds. Just because you can video chat using the free Wi-Fi at Starbucks doesn’t mean you should. The only thing more obnoxious than someone carrying on a loud phone conversation in the local cafe is someone carrying on a video chat at the local cafe. On the flip side, many bars now offer free Wi-Fi as well. Resist the temptation of allowing your chat partner to peek in on the regulars at your local watering hole.

5. Wear pants. There’s an old joke that folks in corporate teleconferences never wear pants. But unless you are intimately familiar with your FaceTime partner, you should always be decent before accepting a video chat request.

This list is just a start. Do you have other suggestions for etiquette while video chatting on a mobile device?

Related content on GigaOM Pro: Report: The Consumer Video Chat Market, 2010-2015 (subscription required)

11 Responses to “Open Thread: FaceTime and the Need for Mobile Video Chat Etiquette”

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  2. I am often asked to video conference over Skype for business, and my setup with the 27 iMac is very good. But, I do not accept impromptu video meeting requests. Why? Unless there is a good reason to see the other person, I want to keep the conversation on business, and the voice is more than adequate. If there is a high level negotiation with a client, contract, etc., then I will prepare the background and myself for the video conference – you can imagine, make sure the beard is trimmed, wearing a good shirt – I mean I dress ok at my home office, I don’t work in my PJs, and so on, but I will prep for a video conference by checking myself for boogers.

  3. After being in use for 40 years ( forty years ) people still don’t observe any email etiquette!

    “…Reply to sender with carbon copy to entire 1,000 person mailing list?”

    clicks ‘Yes’

  4. Hamranhansenhansen

    This is all true, but possibly even more important than FaceTime phone etiquette is face time phone etiquette. By that I mean, when you are actually physically face to face with someone, lose the phone altogether. Turn off the ringers and noisemakers and put it away and catch up with it later. We get little enough actual eye contact as it is.

  5. Brandon

    I absolutely agree with everything you’ve written here. Etiquette is unfortunately usually the last thing on people’s mind these days.

    I was however interested why you don’t just use mobile phones in general as opposed to the iPhone in your discussion. The EVO was able to do video chat before the iPhone, and it also does it over Sprints network as opposed to being limited to only WiFi. The forthcoming Samsung Epic (Galaxy S) also does video chat over the network. In general; mobile video chat has been around for many years in places like Japan, China, etc. I just think you’re giving Apple a bit too much credit where they really don’t deserve any. Just sayin. /rant

    • MacDaddy

      Are you serious? Why not use other phones? Uhm, maybe because this is a story about FACETIME! Facetime isn’t on any other devices but the iPhone…

    • Brandon, this is an Apple site, not a Samsung, Google, China, or any other site — which is why the focus is on Apple. Also, while Apple certainly didn’t invent video chat, they will be the ones credited with making it mainstream, much like they did with USB. They didn’t invent USB, but it wasn’t until they included it on the uber-popular original iMac that USB devices and connections began showing up everywhere.

    • @James – what on earth are you talking about? I am reading this post on NewTeeVee and I found it via the JKOnTHeRun RSS feed. WhIch of those is the Apple site you’re referring to?