Apple is targeting to have about 85 million Facetime video conferencing enabled devices sold by the end of 2011. Facetime or Skype video calling are super easy to use, integrated and work great but almost never get used. OK, that is pure speculation on my part. I don't know for a fact that it rarely gets used, but it sure seems that way with the folks I know. I was excited about the Facetime feature before I bought my iPhone 4 many months ago but I still have yet to use it. Not even once. If you had asked me if I would use Facetime before I bought my phone I would have answered an emphatic absolutely. Needless to say, I am very surprised that myself, my friends and the colleagues I've asked say they very, very rarely use the video conferencing features offered on their iOS phones.
It gets even more unexpected when you consider that I, and most of my colleagues, use telepresence HD video conferencing about once a week, use webex video conferencing more than once a week on our laptops, and use skype video conferencing at least once a month or more on our laptops. So it isn't that we are anti-video conferencing. In fact, I love doing telepresence sessions with customers because we get so much more done than over a voice only call. So what's going on with iOS video conferencing? Why does it seem like nobody is using it?
Well, I have a few hunches about why. First and foremost I think it is because we like our privacy to much to always be taking video calls like we do voice calls. With a voice call you can completely tune out, multitask, hit mute and tell your kids to quiet down, do e-mails, wear non-business attire, etc. etc. without affecting your conversation with the person on the other line to much. In fact, when we are on a voice call all parties generally assume that those on the line are providing each other with 100% of their attention to what they are saying. The reality is very different of course, but because the medium is only voice we are able to live up to the perception we are paying attention in most cases. Sure, every once in a while we get caught not paying but by and large we are pretty good at not getting caught.
Now, add in video conferencing and things change drastically. You can no longer not pay full attention to your caller and not get caught. Just like in person conversations, people can quickly pick up on someone who is not paying attention, doesn't want to be there, isn't engaged, is multitasking, and all sorts of other social queues. Bottom line is we don't use video conferencing like we do voice conferencing because we really don't want to loose some of our privacy and engage in a more intimate and emotionally face to face interaction.
So, what do you all think? Do you use Facetime or Skype video calling on your iOS device frequently? Do you use it more or less than you thought you would? Am I way off base here and everyone is actually using it and I've got my head in the sand?
I think that ubiquitous video calling will overtake voice only calling in the future. But I also believe that it will take many years before it becomes socially adopted as the preferred communication method. It will happen no doubt, just not quickly.
The opinions and information presented here are my PERSONAL views and not those of my employer. I am in no way an official spokesperson for my employer.
This story, "Apple Facetime: Is Anyone Really Using It?" was originally published by Network World.