my FaceTime chat with my friend and Apple Co-founder Steve Wozniak (this was Mac to Mac)
One of the things Apple introduced in their "Back to the Mac" event last week was a public beta of FaceTime for the Mac. I'm very pleased to see this happen as many of were scratching our heads as to why this wasn't introduced as a feature of iChat. I'm actually glad that Apple chose to make it a stand alone App. Why? The reason is I've had very hit and miss luck (mostly miss) with connecting with people over iChat over the years. To the point that I completely gave up on it. Whereas FaceTime almost always works for me. Actually FaceTime was one of the reasons I upgraded my immediate family to iPhone 4s. I'm on the road for work all the time and I have a kid away in school, so FaceTime was a great solution for keeping in touch without having to sit in front of a computer. With that said, there are some that will NEVER buy an iPhone or even an iPod touch. Now we can FaceTime with those folks from iPhone to Mac, Mac to Mac, Mac to iPod touch, etc. This makes FaceTime even more useful than it was before.
How does it make calls if it's not a phone?
FaceTime on the Mac, like the 4th gen iPod touch doesn't have a phone number associated with it. Therefore it relies on your registered email address. When you setup FaceTime on the Mac for the first time you log in with your Apple ID and then you can set it to use any email address(es) you want. By default if anyone tries to FaceTime you with that email address your Mac will "ring" and you can choose to accept the call or decline it. FaceTime still monitors for incoming calls even if the app isn't running. You can of course disable this feature.
How well does it work?
In my first test I was setting it up and I actually accidentally clicked on my daughter's name and it started to place the call. I quickly disconnected as it was a mistake and I wasn't trying to call her in that moment. However, she called me right back and we were FaceTiming. (yes that's a word now). She just tapped the call back feature on her iPhone without even thinking about it and since that call originated from my MacBook Pro at first, it (she) dialed me back to that location. The video and voice were very clear and of course the call was FREE!
Although you can setup a Favorites list you still have to scroll up and down your contacts or start to type a name. I would really like to see a standard Search box at the top of the window in the next version. Will there be a Windows version? Your guess is as good as mine. However, if you think about it Apple never released their own iChat client. iChat uses AOL and therefore a Windows user can just use that. They may do the same for FaceTime (as they have published the protocols used) and let someone else do the Windows client. Again, just guessing.
Like most "betas" this product is still under development and therefore there could be bugs in using it and we could see more features come along the way. My assumption is that Apple will roll the final version into Mac OS X 10.7 Lion in the summer of 2011.
Snow Leopard (yes it requires Snow Leopard) users can download the FaceTime Beta here.