WWDC 2010 keynote (iPhone 4, FaceTime 002)

When Apple was unveiling a new video-calling capability on the then new iPhone 4 at the WWDC 2010 keynote, Steve Jobs presented the feature as one of his famous ‘one more thing’ moments.

FaceTime debuted as a hassle-free video calling service between iPhone 4 devices and was initially Wi-Fi-only, but Apple eventually rolled it out across the lineup so it’s available across Mac, iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices on both Wi-Fi and cellular.

The engineer behind the feature, Roberto Garcia, was forced to spill the beans on how FaceTime came out of work done for Game Center in his testimony during the fourth week of the second Apple vs. Samsung trial in California, here are the juiciest bits…

The origins of FaceTime can be traced back to a 2007 software prototype Garcia created to connect his phone to his Mac to make voice calls.

“The next year, he and other engineers were able to decode a video frame from a Mac on a phone,” CNET reported.

Because, in his own words, “in 2008 it became clear that the iPhone was a great gaming platform,” he was tasked with a project called Game Kit that would let devs implement multiplayer features and voice chat in their iPhone games.

Game Kit in 2009 became Game Center so Garcia implemented multi-party voice chat that would provide a solid foundation for the FaceTime project, codenamed Venice, because “code writing for Game Center turned out to be really useful for FaceTime.”

Garcia and four other engineers spent essentially all of their time on the project, and various other teams worked on pieces related to the technology.

Apple’s core audio team did the audio backend, dealing with the microphone and speaker, Garcia said. The video codec team also was involved, as was the application team, “which draws pretty buttons and things like that,” he said.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Not to bother you with boring legal stuff, I’ll just point out that Samsung has accused Apple of infringing its video-transfer patent with FaceTime.

WWDC 2010 keynote (iPhone 4, FaceTime 004)

It’s interesting that FaceTime is comprised of “at least tens of thousands of lines of code” and that Steve Jobs didn’t like early prototypes because it involved a too complex setup procedure so the CEO demanded that FaceTime work right out of the box.

It’s also telling how Apple from the onset wanted to ensure that FaceTime didn’t record or save any videos to protect user privacy and address security concerns.

“I don’t want my video calls recorded by anybody or seen by anyone, so I and everyone on my team took security and privacy very seriously,” Garcia said.

Below is a FaceTime segment from Steve’s keynote, via AppleKeynotes on YouTube.

It features Jobs and Ive and includes a memorable jab at the audience members, mostly bloggers, who were degrading the quality of an on-stage FaceTime call by causing network congestion by refusing to turn their Mi-Fi devices off at Steve’s request.

I like how Steve referred to Ive as “one of my best friends in the whole world.”

Based on a bunch of open standards, FaceTime was meant to become interoperable with other voice calling platforms such as Skype.

WWDC 2010 keynote (iPhone 4, FaceTime 003)
An unfulfilled promise: FaceTime as an open industry standard.

“We’re gonna take it all the way,” Jobs quipped during the keynote. “We’re going to the standards bodies, starting tomorrow, and we’re gonna make FaceTime an open industry standard.”

Unfortunately – and for reasons largely unbeknown (at least to us) – FaceTime has remained to date exclusive to Apple device, which is a shame, really.

Do you like FaceTime, how often do you use the feature and would you say that it has changed the way we communicate?

  • David Gitman

    I never used Facetime lol

    • jack

      probably because you have no one intimate enough to talk face to face

      • ✘✘Aineel Nocum

        that burn

      • David Gitman

        Nope Because I can always talk to them inperson

  • Chun-Li aka ThunderThighs

    Now explain the new iPhone 6

    • onebyone_

      With the rumours of 4.7 inches screen( iPhone Air or 6), I think they now can update facetime to make ‘multi-facetime’ calls with 4 or 6 members at the same time in the next iOS8.
      would be a great new feature

      • Lordrootman

        i want apple to come up with new name no more 6 OR 6S

      • Jack Wong

        I don’t see what is wrong with #?

        Or Apple can just name it iPhone, just like the Air, and Macbook Pro.

      • Lordrootman

        There’s nothing wrong with #
        Just to shut down SAMSTINK strategy copy plan
        iPhone 5 Samsung will say hey we have S4
        iPhone 5S Samsung will say guys we have S5
        I do agree with you if they go on PRO and AIR

      • Jack Wong

        LOL I see, you know what, I don’t check any Samsung phone at all, I see your point now.

        I never owe any Android phone, because they are overpriced. And the only Android phone I will get is Moto.

      • Lordrootman

        For some reason they can’t stop copying
        Finger print and Gold phone
        But they stuck in 64Bit lmao

      • Gerardo Castro

        The problem is its the 8th gen phone why the hell should it be called the 6

      • Jack Wong

        Errr… I believe software > hardware these days.

        I don’t even keep track of the generation # of my iPhone, I have been using it since first generation, all I care is the software.

      • felixtaf

        Its the 8th iPhone, not the 8th gen iPhone!

      • Gerardo Castro

        The 8th iPhone is the 5C. The new one will be the 8th generation because its an improvement to the previous version.. Therefore, its a new generation

  • onebyone_

    I used often with friends and family, best quality than the laggy skype

  • James Gunaca

    I wish it would have gone more open, but other utilities like Hangouts have emerged that offer a good experience as well.

    FaceTime is incredible though. I love it and glad I can use it almost anywhere now.

  • T_Will

    Wasn’t there some patent or licensing discrepancy that prevented Apple from opening it up as a standard?

    • QuarterSwede

      Yes. That was exactly reason why it wasn’t opened.

  • Adithya Sairam

    *Wi-Fi not Mi-Fi.

    • ryanhemenway

      its Mi-Fi in this case. personal wifi hotspots.

  • @sexyhamthing

    so… skype?

  • Christian Mejía

    Love watching those apple keynotes with Steve Job.

  • @dongiuj

    FaceTime…. I remember how Steve jobs sold this video calls as a “first” on mobile phones and even advertised it on its website as a first. Complete false advertising and apple didn’t reply to me when I questioned its marketing/advertising.
    “The origins of FaceTime can be traced back to a 2007″…. Video calls on mobile phones were up and running at least a year or two before this in Japan. And when was FaceTime actually released to the public with this?
    No doubt this comment is going to cause many “ifs and buts” by the apple dedicated disciples who cry “judas” when anyone has the slightest negative thing to say. But the point is that apple advertised its phone as a first for video calls when in actual fact it really wasn’t.

    • QuarterSwede

      He didn’t sell it as a first. Just the first that didn’t suck to use as Apple usually waits and does things when they get it right or think they have gotten it right.

      • @dongiuj

        Sorry, you’re completely wrong. He did sell it as a first and he said it when he introduced it. And it was on their website advertising as a “first”. Stop trying to make out that this company can do no wrong and face the facts.

      • QuarterSwede

        Watch te keynote again. He NEVER said it was a first.

      • @dongiuj

        “And it’s real now”….sounds like he’s saying a first to me.

      • QuarterSwede

        Right. You’re hearing what you want to hear. In reality I surmise that most of the people in the WWDC audience knew it wasn’t the first.

      • @dongiuj

        I couldn’t care less what the audience knew or didn’t know. All I’m saying that apple say it as if they created it and it was advertised on its website as a selling point.
        You’re not hearing what you don’t want to hear. Just like all apple fans.

      • QuarterSwede

        The audience was key to WHO Jobs was marketing to. WWDC is for developers and tech press who usually know what’s going on in the tech world. The amount of average people that ever watch the keynote is minuscule.

        I can’t speak to what they put on the website at the time because I don’t remember but to say during the keynote he said FaceTime was a point blank first is naive. I will say that they are very careful to not say it’s a first and when they market something new they never talk about it being an evolution of older ideas, but that’s the JOB of marketing. That could be taken as them saying it’s a first when in reality they don’t.

        It’s not like it’s a secret that Apple doesn’t put products out until they feel they got the user experience right. They’ve said that numerous times. Why do you think they still haven’t released an iWatch? When they do I would be they talk about it being something revolutionary. That doesn’t mean it’s a first, just something actually enjoyable and easy to use.

      • @dongiuj

        Jobs said at WWDC “all you bloggers too” when talking about switching off wi-fi so that FaceTime has a chance of running smoothly. So he knew that bloggers where there which means he knew that all the details and videos of WWDC will be shown to the public very soon. You can stop making excuses again. I remember about the website because I contacted apple specifically about it. “Now it’s a reality”. And when I questioned its advertising, it refused to explain to one of its customers on the subject. Also on its forums I brought it up and it deleted my comment and then banned me. Sounds like hiding something to me. What ever, it’s come and gone and apple made made millions from it and all the users are happy, I’m happy that FaceTime is on the phone but I just disagree with how they sold it. That’s all. My opinion.

  • MarvinKleinpass

    I use FaceTime very often