We already gave you a walk-through of the new iPhone 4 and its new design and features. Now, it’s time to delve a bit deeper into FaceTime, the video chatting application built into iPhone 4. While we weren’t surprised the phone would support video chatting (those leaked photos did show a front-facing camera, after all), we were charmed by Apple’s elegant execution, and by how easy the app is to use. Making a call is as easy as pressing an icon for FaceTime, just like Skype makes it easy to press either Call or Video Call.
You’ll know it’s working when you see your own face on the phone’s 3.5-inch screen. When your friend picks up (he or she must also have an iPhone 4), his or her face will take up the display, and your face will then take up a small box in a corner at the bottom of the screen. The front-facing camera has VGA resolution. Despite the fact that you’re seeing your friend’s face at a fairly high res, the delivery still seemed smooth in our demo. Of course, that’s largely because you can only use the phone’s 802.11n radio to make such calls; you can’t use AT&T’s network.
Once you’re video chatting, you have the option of viewing your caller in landscape mode. You can also chat using the back-facing camera, so as to show him or her what you see. There are onscreen icons you can tap to activate either of these modes (in other words, even though there’s an accelerometer, the landscape video chat won’t kick in automatically, and probably for good reason).
FaceTime is the perfect example of why Apple’s M.O. of controlling the user experience, end-to-end, pays off. Apple has designed not just a phone that’s capable of smooth video chat, but has also taken the software experience into its own hands so that it’s an integral part of the OS, and is as easy to use as any other feature in iOS 4. Meanwhile, the EVO 4G doesn’t ship with a video calling app; rather, you have to download Qik, which wasn’t initially easy to find. Once it became easy to find in Android Market, so many people downloaded it that the quality of service suffered. People complained of connectivity issues, and Qik subsequently pulled the app, promising it would return after it had resolved its major issues. In short, without an integrated app like FaceTime, the few other video-chatting-ready phones there are seem less impressive.
Check out our video and gallery of FaceTime in action.