This morning, the new iPod touch (s aapl) I ordered last week arrived at my home office. Although the device isn’t quite an iPhone 4 without the voice contract — no GPS, a low-res still camera and no IPS display come to mind — it’s close enough to complement my Android (s goog) phone. While mobile, I’ll use the free Wi-Fi hotspot feature that Froyo brings to my Nexus One and keep the iPod touch connected so I can test mobile apps for work. The device is impressively thin, and as it turns out, fits nicely in my iPad dock, turning the iPod touch into a hands-free video phone for me.
I don’t think it had been 15 minutes since I configured the device when my son surprised me with a FaceTime video call. Tyler just got an iPhone 4 for his birthday and was dying to try FaceTime, so he was tracking my iPod touch delivery in anticipation. It turns out that earlier this morning, Tyler got his first set of contact lenses. That was another surprise to me, because although I knew he was going for an eye exam, I figured he’d come home with new glasses. Since he lives a half-hour away with his mom, I wouldn’t have seen his two eyes with my four eyes if it wasn’t for FaceTime. Due to the simple nature of Apple’s video calling service, he was able to share the experience not long after it happened, with just a tap of the screen. That may sound silly, but it’s a blessing for a father who only sees his son every other week.
I realize Apple didn’t invent video calling, and I’d never claim otherwise. I’ve used other software on different handheld devices for video calls in the past. I also know that in Europe and other areas outside the U.S., video calls on smartphones are fairly commonplace. Here in the U.S., it’s generally been a rare phenomenon only experienced by geeks like me, and that’s the difference. By making FaceTime simple to use and accessible on both the iPhone 4 and the new iPod touch, Apple is taking video calls to mainstream consumers. Once FaceTime moves from Wi-Fi to mobile broadband networks, I can just imagine the experiences: first steps, graduations, and other important moments in life shared via video calls.
It’s a shame I lost my father last year, because I know he’d be amazed to see his grandson grow up through real-time video chats. I couldn’t care less which company brings video calls for me and my son to use; I’m just grateful to leverage the technology to share more meaningful time with my son without having to futz with apps, settings or devices.
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