Three reasons FaceTime will flop

Think the iPhone 4 will usher in the Jetsonian era of video calling? Think again. Most folks don't want to see and say--they just want to say.

FaceTime is going to fizzle. 

During yesterday's Apple Worldwide Developers Conference event, Steve Jobs saved this new addition for his venerated "one more thing" announcement, effectively celebrating it as the killer iPhone 4 feature.

In case you missed it, FaceTime offers Skype-like video calling via the iPhone 4's front-facing camera. It's not entirely Skype-like, though; for now, FaceTime works only over Wi-Fi networks, not 3G.

I admit that video calling sounds cool on paper. It even looks cool in demo videos like the one up top. But you know what? I'm not interested. And I suspect that after the novelty wears off, few people will spend any long-term face time with FaceTime. Here's why:

Will FaceTime catch on, or is it a feature that's destined to flop? Apple

1. It's physically uncomfortable. Holding an iPhone at arm's length for more than a few seconds is really uncomfortable. Go ahead, try it now. Hold your phone out in front of your face for, say, 30 seconds. Oh, and keep it really steady so the "camera" doesn't shake too much. Are you having fun?

2. Video calls are awkward. I've done my share of Skype-ing over the years, and it's always weird. After you get past that initial "wave hello" and inevitable discussions about the quality of the audio and video ("How do I look at your end? I can hear you OK, but the video's kind of choppy"), you're left with the awkwardness of trying to communicate in a totally foreign, largely unintuitive way. Maybe we'll all get accustomed to this form of communication over time; however, for the moment, I can think of only a few occasions when I'd really want two-way video calling. (Obviously seeing faraway family members is a big draw.)

3. The Wi-Fi requirement. Currently, FaceTime doesn't support making video calls over 3G, which  means that I'm limited to holding video calls at my home (where I already have a Webcam and a much bigger screen, thanks) or at a public hot spot, where I'm going to feel even more awkward about holding my iPhone in front of my face and talking to it. According to Apple, FaceTime won't support 3G this year, which is strange given that Fring, Skype, and other VoIP apps offer it.

What do you think? Is it too soon to pass judgment on FaceTime? Will I end up eating my words? Or will Steve Jobs' "one more thing" ultimate amount to one bore thing?

 

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