FaceTime for Mac beta

Apple has done what people have been asking it to do since the launch of the Apple iPhone 4 in June - bring FaceTime to Mac. But what's it like? Well not ones to pass on the chance of trying new technology we jumped over to the Apple site, downloaded the new Apple FaceTime for Mac beta and installed it to have a go.

Visit the Apple page http://www.apple.com/uk/mac/facetime, press on the "download me" button and you're off. It's a 14MB download so depending on what your broadband connection is like will depend on whether how long you will have to wait, but it shouldn't be long. "FaceTime for Mac makes it possible to talk, smile, wave and laugh with anyone on an iPhone 4, iPod touch or Mac from your Mac over Wi-Fi," according to Apple - so does it?

We downloaded and installed the FaceTime for Mac app (you'll need 40MB spare) in about 3 minutes and were FaceTime-ing other members of the Pocket-lint team (as long as they were on Wi-Fi) just as quick.

Once you load up the software, login is done via your Apple ID. That's the same ID that you use for your iTunes purchases, and the same you use to buy things on Apple's website. If you haven't got either of those you can create one easy enough.

Presumably forced by the size of the iPod touch and iPhone screen sizes, the video is displayed at the same portrait ratio regardless of the fact that you have a bigger screen. You can maximise the application to the size of your screen, but you will be restricted to the height of your monitor, be it on an iMac or one of the company's laptops.

The FaceTime software is incredibly simple, overly so in some places. Next to the video feed you get an information tab that gives you access to your Favourites, Recents, and Contacts. Automatically importing your contacts from your Mac Contacts into FaceTime, you'll get the full barrage of your contacts list with no way of filtering or even searching the list. You can't even add them to the app. Ouch.

That's a pain if you've got lots of contacts, and why using the Favourites tab is virtually a requirement for your handful of friends also using FaceTime.

Making and receiving calls is very much like the experience you get on the iPod touch and iPhone.

Someone rings you and you'll get a bright green answer call logo at the bottom of your video feed and their Apple ID details at the top.

Answering the call puts your video feed in the bottom left hand corner and their video feed takes centre stage.

Sound is automatically enabled, although you can mute this, and in the iPod touch and iPhone calls that we made, users could switch between the two cameras on both devices at the press of a button without dropping the video call.

Furthermore it works out the orientation at the other end (i.e., on the iPod touch or iPhone) when their device is rotated from portrait to landscape; automatically changing the orientation on your screen from portrait to landscape. Very clever.

Once you're in call, you can go full screen, something that benefits that landscape mode.

In terms of quality, that very much depends on your Wi-Fi connectivity, their Wi-Fi connectivity, and the available light at either end - the less light the more grainy the picture, for example.

Verdict

FaceTime is no iChat that's for sure. It's also still in beta so expect this to be a first stab rather than a final launch product - we hope.

If you've got an iPhone 4 or iPod touch and a Mac this will save you having to buy a second iPhone 4 or iPod touch to have those "magic" moments the Apple ads are keen to tell you about.

However it is also very basic stuff, and something that won't be threatening services like Skype any time soon when it comes to keeping in touch with your friends and family.

With 19 million FaceTime-ready devices sold in the last 90 days there are plenty of people who are willing to give this go, if you've used Skype however, you may find yourself being disappointed.

Don't rule it out yet though, Apple FaceTime has plenty of potential. 



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