Apple’s FaceTime has been a wonderful, forward-thinking video communication feature of iPhones and iPads and Macs for many years.

With the release of iOS 7, FaceTime has, once again, changed the landscape of everyday human communication.

It is now possible to make an “audio-only” FaceTime call using WiFi — or your cellular network if you have an iPhone 4S or newer — and if you haven’t given FaceTime audio-only a try yet by calling another FaceTime user, then you have no clue to the incredible joy of direct, intimate, communication you are missing.

FaceTime audio-only calls sound deep, rich, buttery, bassy — and the feature is already giving the non-ubiquitous LTE/4G “HD Voice” a run for its still-unimplemented, broadband, money:

Verizon will wait until it moves its voice service to the LTE network, according to Mike Haberman. The company plans to have voice-over LTE by the end of the year or early 2014. Currently, data goes over LTE, while the voice call still runs over its 3G network. Haberman said the carrier would support its 3G network through the rest of the decade.

While one of the key benefits of voice-over LTE is a reduction in cost and traffic, Haberman said the company is more interested in the potential services that can be tied into voice with VoLTE. As for HD Voice, he said Verizon wouldn’t offer it until there was a consistent quality of service. HD Voice continues to travel on a rocky road to the consumer. Sprint Nextel made it a focal point when it launched the feature in the Evo 4G LTE in April, even having actor Keifer Sutherland record a crystal-clear call in a demonstration. But since then, the initiative has sputtered.

When you add a contact to your favorites list, you may also add their FaceTime audio-only information if they have a FaceTime-capable device.

Sometimes, you don’t need video and voice when just voice will do — touch the phone icon for “FaceTime” in your contact’s information screen, and you’re set to get the greatest sounding audio, ever.

It sounds like you’re right in the room with the person — in fact, it feels as if you’re in each other’s ear!  You can actually hear the heartbeat in the breath of the person you’re talking to if you’re still long enough.

If you are on a non-WiFi network, you will be using the cellular network for both of your audio-only and video FaceTime calls — and if, like me, you are paying for your measured broadband cellular service, FaceTime will eat into your usage bucket.

I don’t mind using my broadband minutes for high-quality VOIP FaceTime audio-only and video calls — and I’m sure Verizon Wireless doesn’t mind, either, because even though I have an unlimited text and voice plan, I’m using my pay-as-I-go broadband bandwidth for voice calls and not data.

Verizon Wireless wins on both ends.  I pay for voice calls I’m not making and Verizon charges me bandwidth for the voice calls I am making over FaceTime.

Verizon Wireless wins on both ends. I pay for voice calls I’m not making and Verizon charges me extra for the bandwidth I’m using to make FaceTime calls.

I applaud Apple for taking the initiative to teach these wireless carriers how a proper phone experience should be in every aspect of the end-user experience. Aesthetic quality matters just as much as mechanisms. Adding a bit of intimate joy to a phone call is a hard thing to beat in the midst of a scratchy and feeble day.

4 Comments

  1. On the plus side, the amount of free wi-fi being given out by parks, restaurants, and the like seems to go up by the day — I imagine it will be only a matter of time before it is harder to find a place without free wi-fi than with it. Looking forward to trying out the voice only Facetime — though having a toddler makes few people want to use it with us as they always want to see him! 🙂

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    1. Free WiFi is always a good thing in NYC:

      The city today announced the launch of several more Wi-Fi hotspots scattered throughout the boroughs (by which we mean Manhattan and Brooklyn, mostly.)
      Like most decisions made under Bloomberg’s tenure, the new hotspots were created with the idea that New York City should crush all the other cities continue to bolster its credibility as an economic powerhouse.

      “If New York City is going remain competitive in the global economy, we must find ways to support the entrepreneurs who are driving technological advances and creating jobs,” the mayor said in a statement. “With these new initiatives, we are making targeted investments to improve our city’s wireless infrastructure and expand Internet access.”

      http://gothamist.com/2013/09/30/city_announces_new_wi-fi_hot_spots.php

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    1. While I was out today, I found an “Xfinity Wifi App” for my iPhone that now shows me all the available WiFi spots that my cable company provides away from home. I am impressed with the speed and coverage!

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