I’m glad that AT&T finally came to their senses on this one. It didn’t make much sense that I could use Skype, Google+ Hangouts, etc, but not the built-in FaceTime. I’m on a corporate dataplan via my employer, however, if I had to buy my own plan I would have definitely considered other carriers. AT&T has restored a little (very small amount) of faith with this move. Thanks!
I’ve been beating up on AT&T a bit lately for their practices that basically punish users (early adopters) of their Unlimited Data Plans. The most recent punishment was when iOS 6 was introduced, Apple finally allowed for FaceTime calls over Cellular on iPhone 4s, iPhone 5 and iPad 3 (or higher). However, once again AT&T said NO to this if you were one of the original iPhone users still grandfathered in to an unlimited data plan. This is the 3rd time in recent history that AT&T has crippled a feature that the device or os could do, just because you weren’t on one of their “newer” ie. non-unlimited data plans. The first one was when iOS supported tethering. Unlimited data plan users still can’t access or add this feature even if they are willing to pay extra for it without leaving their unlimited data plan. The 2nd one was when the iPad allowed tethering and once again AT&T was silent on this issue for all users. Lastly there was the FaceTime over Cellular feature that once again AT&T said NO to all but those on their newest Shared Data Plans. I get it. AT&T wants users to move off those Unlimited Data Plans and they are trying to force the issue by basically crippling the features that your device can do. Is it fair? NO. Do you have a choice? Yep, you can switch plans or switch carriers and that’s exactly what I did with my iPads. Any cellular capable iPad I buy, I now buy the Verizon version. The irony is that back in the day Verizon was the carrier that played these games by disabling features like bluetooth on certain handsets. However, Verizon has changed their ways somewhat and now they say come on it.
AT&T may have changed their tune too
It appears that at least for some, starting yesterday AT&T has quietly been turning on FaceTime over Cellular for All users (iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPad 3, etc. on iOS 6). There are several reports that users simply turned their iPhones off and back on again and either the feature was already turned on or they were able to enable it without the familiar blue message I still get above. These users that have it working are all claiming that they are on a grandfathered Unlimited Plan. However, there are just as many users like me where the feature still isn’t enabled yet. So perhaps it will take time for it to roll out to all or perhaps it was a mistake, fluke or still not available for “all” users (ie those on Corporate Unlimited Data Plans), but time will tell. If this feature does roll out to all, It will change my attitude towards AT&T to be a bit more favorable than it is right now, and it truly would be a Happy Tech Thanksgiving.
Does it work for you? Did you power your iPhone down and back on again? Are you on the original Unlimited Data Plan? What state are you in? (keep in mind you have to be on iOS 6 and an iPhone 5, iPhone 4s or iPad 3 or higher).
Déjà vu! It’s like 2010/iOS 4 all over again. A couple of years ago Apple updated iOS to include data tethering. This would allow you to use your iPhone’s data connection on another device like your laptop when you’re out and about. Not meant to be your main internet connection, but a nice plus for travelers that need to connect to the internet from their computers when there wasn’t any free WiFi hotspots available. Of course this was great unless you were an AT&T customer. Not only did it take AT&T forever to turn on this feature, but when they did they blocked it from existing customers that were grandfathered into their original unlimited data plans. They feared that all those users now tethering their laptops would bring the AT&T data network to its knees. They were probably right! In order to get tethering you had to be willing to leave your unlimited plan and sign up for a new Data Pro plan and pay extra for tethering.
Fast forward to iOS 6 in 2012
Apple announced that when iOS 6 comes out this fall that you’ll (finally) be able to use FaceTime over a 3G network. I never really understood why this wasn’t available sooner since there are so many Apps on the App Store that let you do this today. Nonetheless, its’ coming, but wait for it….once again AT&T is saying no no no to those of us who are on unlimited data plans.
You might remember that when the New iPad came out that I switched from AT&T to Verizon for that device. Since then I’ve been enjoying tethering at no additional cost and I’ll likely enjoy FaceTime on it too over their fast (almost everywhere in the US) 4G LTE network.
I’ll Just Use Skype!
FaceTime is great and I’ve always wanted it on my 3G/4G network, but I’m grandfathered into a corporate unlimited data plan that my company won’t be changing anytime soon. FaceTime only works with Apple iOS devices and Macs. Skype works with Macs, iOS devices, Windows, and Android devices. It works today over both WiFi and 3G! This means that I can video call just about anyone I know for FREE TODAY! I don’t have to wait for iOS 6 and I don’t have to switch plans, carriers or anything else. Is it as nice as having video chat built-in to the OS and tied to a person’s phone number/email address? No, but it’s more pervasive and less restrictive, available today and works over AT&T’s 3G network (go figure).
I have really been enjoying using FaceTime to make FREE video calls back home while traveling abroad. Of course you need either an iPhone 4 or 4th generation iPod touch on either end and a Wi-Fi connection on both ends and you can talk and see as much as you want for FREE. It's been working extremely well! The one thing that I find to be a bit of a pain is actually holding the device. When just talking on the phone for long periods of time you can just lay it down and use speakerphone or a bluetooth headset as you roam around the room/multitask. However, with FaceTime you're going to not only want to hold the device, but you're also going to want to hold it up fairly high. Holding it down at a natural stomach level will probably yield some unflattering up the nose angles for your video.
Then I got an idea
One evening while sitting and working at the desk in my hotel room I realized that not only was there a better way to do this, but I even had the necessary pieces with me to make it work. Ideally you want some sort of vertical stand for the iPhone 4 that lifts it up higher than the desk/table itself. I realized that I had both an iPhone 4 tripod holder AND a Gorillamobile in my computer bag. It took me all of 15 seconds to put the two together and I had an instant FaceTime stand that could be tilted and even attached to something higher if need be. It worked GREAT!
Here are the two pieces you need:
G-Design makes the iPhone 4 tripod holder. Unfortunately it's not designed for the iPod touch, but as long as you don't turn it upside down it should just hold it in place.
It fits the iPhone 4 very snuggly and you CAN turn it upside down or sideways if you need to.
While the Tripod holder will go on just about any standard tripod, I find the Gorillamobile to be the smallest and most flexible in terms of standing it up or wrapping it around objects. It's so small in fact that I forgot that it was in my bag. So it's GREAT for travelers.
Yes you can use FaceTime with a 4th Gen iPod touch too!
In case you missed it, you don't have to have an iPhone (and contract) to enjoy FaceTime. You can have this FREE video call goodness now with a 4th Generation iPod touch. It has the necessary front facing camera and can make the same FREE video calls over WiFi to other 4th gen iPod touch devices OR iPhone 4's. FaceTime on an iPod touch uses your registered email address to receive FaceTime calls as long as your on WiFi. You can make FaceTime calls to an iPhone 4 as long as you know their phone number or another 4th gen iPod touch as long as you have their "registered" email address. Get the 32GB (don't waste your time with an 8GB model) iPod touch here.
I finally got around to giving the iPhone 4's FaceTime video chatting feature a real world test yesterday with none other than music recording legend Seal. While I would have loved to have shared this call with you as a recorded video, I respect Seal's privacy wishes not to show his home here/on the internet. So I'll have to do one later with him when he's on the road. We were both quite impressed with the quality and ease of doing this type of hand held video chat.
The picture quality was great and the audio was crystal clear. As a matter of fact FaceTime is currently working better than the Phone part of the iPhone 4. Sadly, I've dropped more calls on my iPhone 4 in the past two days than I have with all previous generation iPhones that I've owned combined! Granted the Bumper does help, but there are some real issues that Apple needs to work out here. All in all it was a fun chat that lasted just over an hour.
FaceTime doesn't use your cellular minutes
One nice surprise is that while you can initiate a FaceTime chat with someone you're talking with on the phone (provided you are both using iPhone 4's and both on WiFi), the minute that FaceTime Chat is in session you are no longer using your cellular minutes. You can also initiate a FaceTime chat directly with a contact in your Contacts list. Again without using any cellular minutes. So this is going to be AWESOME for my international travels. FaceTime is a winner.
I've been busy with my day job and really couldn't spend a lot of time ogling the iPhone announcements the other day. However, I did catch up on my reading of all the new things and watched a few of the videos and of course people expect me to weigh in on what I like or don't like about new tech gadgets So here goes:
iPhone 4 – What I'm excited about
From a new hardware perspective, I'm excited about the new smaller, thinner form factor and since I have yet to see the actual (retina) display I can't weigh in on it one way or the other. I'm sure it's great. I also welcome the faster speeds of the A4, longer battery life of the bigger battery and potential better call quality based on the new antenna layout/case design. I definitely welcome the new 5MP camera and LED flash as well as having both a front facing and rear facing camera. This was long over due! FaceTime looks cool, but I wonder how useful it will be since both people have to have iPhone 4s and be on WiFi. Still, it will be fun to try. The 720p video is definitely welcome! It may mean that I can actually give up my Kodak Zi8, which I love. What I love even more is carrying less devices.
iPhone 4 – What I'm a little disappointed about
Although I get the space constraint issues, I'm still disappointed that there's not a 64GB version. Maybe I won't care as much now that I have an iPad, but my 32GB iPhone 3GS is always within 1-5GBs of space remaining. So I was looking forward to not only a faster iPhone, but bigger storage too. Also I kinda wish that they didn't go to a MicroSIM as it means switching the SIM card between phones is going to be a little more challenging. I'll be testing an Android phone in the not too distant future and it would have been nice to be able to "easily" go between the two with the same SIM Card. This solution looks promising though.
iOS 4 – What I'm excited about
If you asked me to name the top 3 features I can't wait for they would be (in order): Folders! – I have TONS of Apps and believe it or not, I can't wait to get them under control from an organization standpoint with folders. I have all 11 screens full right now on my 3GS and I have to pick and choose which apps to delete when I want to add more because I refuse to let them slide into that black hole that is page 12. The second thing I have been dying for is the integrated inbox in Mail. I've been complaining about that since 2007. So 3 years later, I'm glad that someone at Apple realized that people have more than one email account and don't want to have to constantly go back back back to view a different inbox. The third thing that I'm excited about is mult-tiasking. Although it remains to be seen what really happens when an app is in the background, I still welcome the fact that it will at least return me to the app where I left off now with 3rd party apps.