(Image courtesy of Apple)
The world is a big place. At the turn of the century trying to visit loved ones who lived halfway across the world took months. Now, we can fly from one side of the globe to the other in less than a day. And even when we aren’t physically technology enables us to feel as if we are. I was reminded of this when FaceTime and iOS brought me closer to my wife AND saved us money in the process.
My wife and I live in the midwest, but she is from Thailand. She is visiting her family for an extended period of time and we wanted to keep in touch more easily than we had during similar trips in the past. We used to make calls over traditional phone lines when she was visiting her family. In order to save money we would often use VoIP. The connection is spotty at best and we would frequently get disconnected. Google Voice was helpful from my end but it did nothing to increase the stability of the connection or the quality of the calls. In fact, when we talked tonight, both via land line and mobile phone, we had our calls disconnected several times.
On this trip we decided to try something new. We both have Verizon iPhone 4 devices. Since the CDMA network it uses isn’t prevalent overseas that wouldn’t be helpful. Since my is staying with her family and they have Internet access and Wifi I had her put the phone in Airplane Mode and ONLY use Wifi. Since they have a relatively slow Internet connection (around 1.5 – 2.0 Mbps) I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was impressed.
Yes, imagine my surprise as we had our first international FaceTime call last night and the connection was rock-solid stable. The video and audio were excellent and the entire experience was MUCH better than I had expected. We were able to video talk via FaceTime for over 30 minutes and the connection didn’t drop once! Sure, we had a few minor issues with the video breaking up, but it was a very nice reliable medium for communication.
In addition, since we are both running iOS 5 beta we tried the new iMessage system. It worked very well over Wifi and means we can text message each other too.
So, thanks to our iPhones, FaceTime and iMessage we are able to keep in touch “face-to-face” and send text messages as if we were in the same place despite being halfway across the globe. Better still, since it is over WiFi we are communicating for free. The process of using FaceTime and iMessage is so simple and “just works”. I am a convert and plan on using FaceTime more often on my iPhone, iPad 2, and my MacBook Air now. Moreover, I am now convinced that iMessage is going to be a big hit since will save money on text messages and allows you to text using the iPod Touch and iPad. I’m impressed!