On FaceTime

Hey, some non-bike content! Adapt!
Even if you’re not an Apple fanboi, you’ve probably heard that Apple announced the next-generation iPhone this week. Among many other magical new features, El Jobso brings us FaceTime, a video chat system. In fact, the new iPhone has a forward-facing camera for just this purpose.
Now, I’m not a video chat curmudgeon. I love video chat on desktops and laptops. In fact, I strongly suspect that the ultimate purpose of Internet technology is to enable grandparents to video chat with their grandkids (we should do that more often, grandparents). That, and ChatRoulette. Not that I’ve ever tried it. However, I have two big problems with mobile video chat.
The first problem is closely akin to the Gorilla Arm syndrome with vertical touch-screens. You’re not going to be able to hold that phone out in front of your face for any length of time. No, you’re going to want to rest it in your lap after the first deltoid-frying minute or so. Then what do you get? Nostrils and chins, folks, nothing but nostrils and chins. Even with people you love, I don’t think that’s what you’re going to want to gaze upon.
The second problem – which Apple has, perhaps inadvertently, addressed by making FaceTime WiFi only for now – is the distraction factor. You think texting while driving is dangerous? Try video chat. FaceTime will rapidly morph into FaceThroughWindshieldTime. Yes, I know the there are probably as many as five people in the world who have 3G mobile video chat capability right this very minute, but fortunately they spend all their money on gadgets and can’t afford cars. If or when the nineteen gazillion iPhone users get the capability, well, look out.
It’s not all bad. I’m sure someone will figure out how to multi-cast FaceTime sessions, at which point we’ll have live video coverage (desired or not) of all kinds of events. And I suppose there might come a time when I’ll need the ability to get somebody’s attention from beyond visual range and say “hey, look at this.” But for now, I don’t think we’re going to find FaceTime as compelling as Apple would like us to.