How Steve Jobs reacted after seeing the very first FaceTime demo

FaceTime debuted in 2010 when video calling wasn’t even a thing. Now an Apple engineer has shared how Steve Jobs reacted to seeing the very first FaceTime demo.

Apple's marketing image showcasing a FaceTime video call running on iPhone and iPad
  • FaceTime launched back in 2010 when video calling wasn’t a mainstream app
  • An ex-Apple engineer shares how Steve Jobs reacted to the first FaceTime demo
  • Unfortunately, Apple gave up on the idea of making FaceTime an open standard

Steve Jobs’s reaction to the first FaceTime demo

Justin Santamaria is a former Apple employee who joined the company in 2003 as a build engineer. He progressed to joining the iPhone development team in 2009 to work on, among other things, the FaceTime app that would debut on the iPhone 4 the following year. Santamaria shared in Techmeme’s Ride Home podcast how Steve Jobe reacted to being shown the very first FaceTime demo.

Here’s an excerpt from the podcast episode:

I was in my boss’s office with a team while someone was in another office and someone was in yet another office. We were using four computers set up to go and I remember being instructed to whatever happened to pretend it’s going well.

Sounds right. FaceTime at that stage was beta software weeks away from release.

When FaceTime did that woom sound, I remember Steve going, “Oh my god, I’m gonna make the crowd sh*t their pants.”

That also sounds like Jobs. Santamaria also shares tidbits such as how the green iMessage bubbles were created. Enjoy the entire episode on Apple Podcasts.

Steve Jobs makes the first public FaceTime call to Jony Ive

The iPhone 4 presentation was marred with problems such as intermittent internet access that prevented Jobs from illustrating the difference between the iPhone 3 display and the Retina screen that made its inaugural debut on the iPhone 4.  The situation was resolved when Jobs asked members of the press in the audience to “please turn your Mi-Fi devices off” to prevent interference with Apple’s equipment.

At the end of the keynote, FaceTime was unveiled as a “One last thing” moment. Jobs slowly walked across the stage and sat on a sofa, scolding audience members to “please keep your Mi-Fi devices off” as he was about to make the first public FaceTime video call to Jony Ive, “one of my best friends in the whole world.”

Marketing image showing receiving a FaceTime audio call on Apple Watch
FaceTime audio also works on Apple Watch

Another interesting factoid: When unveiling FaceTime during the iPhone 4 presentation, Jobs promised that Apple would work with the relevant international standards groups to make FaceTime an open industry standard. Apple never followed through with that promise even though an open-standard FaceTime would enable other companies to adopt it in their products.

In hindsight, that was a big mistake because cross-device FaceTime would’ve proved its worth during the pandemic when video calling surged in popularity thanks to apps like Zoom. To this date, FaceTime remains closed and exclusive to the Apple ecosystem although Android and Windows users can now join FaceTime calls.