Mike Elgan wrote a post a little while ago on Google+ about FaceTime’s imminent 3G capability through iOS6 which is expected to arrive next month. The thrust of his post is that FaceTime’s new 3G capability is too little too late: Google+’s Hangouts already offer multi-party video chat over WiFi and 3G. His post inspired a mild religious debate with the general consensus being that FaceTime is a distinct has-been given Hangouts’ clear advantage.
I love the idea of using Hangouts to keep in touch with my family but there are practical considerations. Here is my comment I posted to the thread dealing with this:
As much as I like Hangouts and love the idea of using Hangouts to help keep in touch family on 4 or 5 continents, I also have to take into account what they are using.
Hangouts may be fine with my brother who has an Android phone and is familiar with Google+ but switching my iPhone toting and less tech savvy sister to Hangouts is a tougher proposition. We use FaceTime to keep in touch and I find it works really well.
My mother uses Skype to keep in touch with her brother in Canada and my brother and sister and while she also sees the value in Hangouts, she is even less inclined to adopt a new platform without some convincing.
Ultimately, I’ll use whichever service is more convenient for whomever I am calling because the goal is to keep in touch, not use a technology for its own sake.
Hangouts have a lot going for them and I’d like to see them become the basis for a new and easy to use comms service based on open standards and so on but, for now, the best solution is a set of services.
When my brother suggested we Skype each other this weekend and chat (he lives in Cape Town and we don’t get to see each other in person that often), I suggested to him that we chat using a Hangout from our iPads instead. I attempted a Hangout this afternoon with my brother from my iPad to his and all we saw were our respective profile photos. We couldn’t hear or see each other. It’s possible we were holding it wrong but we switched to FaceTime and it worked.
Hangouts are potentially awesome with multiple participants but when it comes to simplicity, FaceTime has a clear advantage, especially for less sophisticated users who want to tap the call button and see the person they are calling without fiddling with settings and help files. I’d love to use Hangouts for video chats so if anyone has figured out how to make it work reliably (or what the common mistakes are when it comes to initiating Hangouts from an iPad or iPhone), I’d love to know.
FaceTime on 3G is actually pretty exciting. I am going to experiment with FaceTime with my team. Nastassja and Samantha both have iPad 2’s with 3G so this could be useful. I just have no idea what the data consumption is. That could be a challenge.