Forget video calls, FaceTime is an amazing VOIP trojan horse

More iPhone talk and an analysis: what the new FaceTime video call feature in the iPhone 4 means for the entire mobile phone and VOIP industries.

I’m not sure how exactly we missed this. It was probably because the announcement happened in two steps: 1) FaceTime is video calling (on WiFi), 2) FaceTime call are free and won’t count against your minutes (duh, it’s on WiFi).

The consequences are not so duh-worthy though. Think about this:
– You can switch a “regular” call to a FaceTime call, and it becomes free.
– You can initiate a FaceTime call without using a regular call.
– You don’t need to register an account or be connected to anything to use FaceTime.
– Consequently, all your normal phone contacts are already your FaceTime contacts.
– Because it’s WiFi, location doesn’t matter and you can call anyone on the planet.

Now imagine that you don’t care about the video aspect of it, as I suspect many people will once the novelty has warn off, and replace the word FaceTime in that paragraph with “Apple’s magical and revolutionary VOIP service”. You get the picture: it’s the most practical and easy to use VOIP service in the world.
Now imagine that this will potentially become a successful open standard, potentially integrated in many other products and services (other phones, iChat, Skype itself, etc). I’ll let you work out all the ways in which this is already a major event in and of itself.

My estimation is that this could dramatically hasten the switch from  “phone service providers” to “data service providers” that we know / hope is coming for all our friends in the phone industry. Yeah, that’s big.

Update: You can already transform the call in a simple voice call: pressing the home button will “remove” the video and display the home screen. The video will pause (stays on the last image), and the voice continues. Video resumes when you return to the call (works like a regular one). So effectively, FaceTime can already be used as a simple VOIP service (if you don’t want video that is).

June 25th, 2010