Updated: June 10, 2021 9:20:47 am
One of the biggest announcements out of this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is the overhaul of FaceTime, Apple’s video-audio calling app. Not only is FaceTime getting a number of much-requested features but it now looks like a competitor to Zoom and Google Meet. While FaceTime is the biggest reason why people consider the iPhone in the first place, the announcement of Apple’s iOS-exclusive video-audio calling app coming to Android and Windows platforms left everyone surprised. The move to expand FaceTime to non-Apple users shows a shift in the company’s walled-garden strategy, but in reality, it’s part of a broader approach to bring more Android/Windows users to Apple’s ecosystem. Not just that, the two-way strategy is Tim Cook’s clever plan to transform Apple’s video conferencing app into a legit competitor to Zoom and Microsoft Teams while still offering end-to-end encryption and a slew of interesting software features.
What is FaceTime and how to use it?
First announced alongside the iPhone 4 in 2010, FaceTime has got its biggest update in a decade this week during Apple’s WWDC 2021 keynote. Right from the beginning, FaceTime is an app designed to offer video and audio calling from Apple users. A FaceTime call can be made between Apple devices and despite being not available on Android and Windows platforms, the video-audio calling app has been a hit. The free-to-use FaceTime app runs on both Wi-Fi and cellular networks.
FaceTime is coming to Android, but Apple’s walled garden still exists
As part of the introduction of iOS 15 at WWDC 2021, Apple said it is letting Android and Windows users join FaceTime calls later this year. Technically yes, Android and Windows users will finally be able to join FaceTime calls and it’s a big move by a company famously known for having tight control over its platforms. But don’t expect Apple’s walled garden is going anywhere. In fact, Apple’s closed ecosystem of hardware and software still exists, even after letting Android and PC users join in a FaceTime call via a browser.
What Apple didn’t tell you is that Android and PC customers can’t set up FaceTime calls on their own. That requires an Apple device and Apple account, plus, they can only join a call when invited via a link by an Apple user. Put this way, Apple is still the decision-maker in how it wants non-Apple users to use its apps. While some might say Apple is slightly opening its services to other platforms but the truth is Cupertino is just giving Android and Windows users a taste of its core apps.
Also, even in this format, Apple is ensuring the calls are encrypted.
Had Apple wanted to bring FaceTime to rival platforms, it would have easily created an app for Android and Windows. But instead, Apple opted for a different route to let Android and Windows users join in FaceTime calls. In a way, Apple is luring Android and PC users to jump into the Apple ecosystem. And why wouldn’t Apple do this? After all, Apple has created the best devices on the market, simply by creating the company’s walled garden.
FaceTime becomes a competitor to Zoom (kind of)
The rise of Zoom in the last few months is no small story. Many turned to the Zoom app to connect for work as well as personal needs.
All those months, Apple kept silent. But during this week’s annual WWDC, Apple set the record straight on how it wants to take on Zoom. It has announced a new FaceTime feature called FaceTime Links, an all-new way to start a FaceTime conversation by generating a link and sharing it with others to join in, even if they do not own an Apple device. This feature makes FaceTime more competitive to Zoom and Microsoft Teams than ever. These calls can also be scheduled and added to a calendar now.
Apple’s FaceTime has always been a perfect alternative to Zoom but now with the opening of its prime video-chat app to Android and Windows users via the web shows the changing competitive landscape. The idea, once again, is to reach beyond iPhone and Mac users and convert them loyal Apple fans.
Many believe the revamp of FaceTime should have come last year when people hardly knew Zoom. While one cannot call it a missed opportunity, but considering Apple is giving its FaceTime a Zoom-like touch and opening the app to more users, it just shows that Cupertino is taking the right steps to make FaceTime a global video conference platform. Not to forget, FaceTime is also getting a bunch of new features this fall, including spatial audio support, a new grid view, a voice isolation feature to improve sound quality to FaceTime and SharePlay.
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