FaceTime Over 3G….Kinda

iPhone 4 with mocked up image on-screenThis past week I worked a few days with our west coast salesman who is the proud owner of a brand new iPhone 4. A long time user of the iPhone 3 GS, he’s thus far very happy with iPhone 4. Both he and his wife carry new iPhones.

One of the things that they’re been enjoying is the new FaceTime application. While I was there he used it to call his wife who was spending some time with family in Las Vegas.

He also used it to show her how their dog was feeling much better after having been ill for a few days. Clearly, to see the dog wagging his tail for herself is a lot more convincing that merely being told he feels better.

This was for me a revelation. I’ve known this gentleman a long time and know that he is not drawn to techno-gadgetry for its own sake. He’s not an early adopter, but he appreciates stuff that works well. In this regard he’s squarely in Apple’s target market.

Given that FaceTime only works over a wifi connection he’s found that for the first time in his life he’s occasionally considering which shops offer free wifi when he’s moving around the city. With a wifi connection he can make  FaceTime call, making a better interpersonal connection and not using his voice minutes.

During our little adventure this week he was not able to use FaceTime as we were in locations where wifi was not available…at least not initially. As we were setting up for a presentation I pulled out my Sprint 3G Mifi and asked if he wanted to make a FaceTime call.

Curious about the possibility, he connected to the mifi signal and proceeded to make a short FaceTime call to a friend. It appeared to work reasonably well. Using my Blackberry I grabbed a quick picture of this as it happened.

It’s not really possible to know exactly how well it was working. We were only taking a few minutes out of an otherwise busy day to give it a try.

We tried it a second time as we were driving north, leaving San Diego for Los Angeles. In that instance the Sprint 3G signal was not very solid so once the call connected it was very choppy and blocky.

All this makes me wonder what might be possible if something like FaceTime was available on a 4G phone like the HTC EVO. That could be very interesting indeed.

I also wonder what impact application like FaceTime will have on demand for devices like the Polycom VVX-1500 or Grandstream GXV-3140?

As the public gets used to point-to-point video calling in their personal lives will we see an increase in appreciation for such capability in the business setting?

In the corporate world it seems that video conferencing is well understood and appreciated, but one-on-one video calling between desktops has been slow to take off.

I find it interesting that fundamentally consumer devices like the iPhone 4 are redefining the level of expectations in a fashion that spans traditional market segments.