In June of 2010, shortly after announcing the launch of FaceTime's beta program, Apple's then-CEO Steve Jobs stated that the company's engineers had built the technology entirely on well-known standards, and that the company was prepared to open up the service so that users of competing mobile platforms would be able to take advantage of it.
Fast forward four years, and a number of things have changed. In 2011, the folks from Cupertino launched iMessage, which brings rich media messaging to all of the company's operating systems. Meanwhile, FaceTime has continued to evolve, jumping from iOS to OS X and, as of last September, gaining the ability to handle voice-only calls — which, in addition to reducing data usage, also allow you to make a call without having to stare at someone's chin for minutes on end).
Alas, something has stayed the same: None of these technologies work (at least officially) on anything but Apple's own devices and computers, leaving us to wonder why the company seems to have changed its corporate mind — and whether keeping things the way they are would be a good idea.
The little services that could
Although I was initially indifferent to both, iMessage and FaceTime have grown considerably on me.
For one thing, they surpass their "legacy" counterparts — MMS messages and phone calls — in a number of obvious ways. A phone call requires a phone number, which is usually tied to a particular device; calling someone at home or on their mobile requires knowing (and dialing) two different numbers, whereas FaceTime reaches them wherever they are. Ditto with iMessage, which has the added benefit of telling you when your messages have been delivered to and read by their intended recipient, regardless of where they might be.
And then there's the stick-it-to-the-phone-company factor. I resisted using SMS for a long time due to the ridiculously high prices imposed by cell providers, which are even more ridiculous once you realize that transmitting messages costs said providers literally nothing. With iMessage, I can communicate with all my contacts back and forth at a fraction of the price, or even for free if I can piggyback on an existing Wi-Fi connection.
The same applies to FaceTime, which also happens, at least to my untrained ears, to provide much higher voice clarity than a plain-old telephone line. Ever since the service gained voice-only support, which uses less data and is much more discrete than its video counterpart, I have found myself using it to call more and more people on my contact list.
Private and confidential
Another great advantage of Apple's messaging system is that it has proven to be reliably free of annoyance. While the deregulation of the telecommunication industry has brought us amazingly low prices on phone service, it has also brought the cost of down to commodity prices the use of the telephone as a medium for spam, which — at least in my household — means that the majority of phone calls we receive these days are blatantly fraudulent in nature.
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