Three ways Apple could improve FaceTime

Home sweet…augh. Yes, even as someone who’s worked from home for almost a decade and a half, having to stay indoors is starting to drive me up the wall.

Thank goodness for technology. It’s a lot harder to imagine what we all would have been doing with all this free time in an era before the internet: probably watching a lot of terrible cable TV and maybe, I don’t know, reading books.

Chief among the many technologies that Apple brings to the table in our socially distant present is FaceTime: it’s great for catching up with family, friends, and other loved ones in these trying times. Though the feature was a revelation when Apple added it back in the iPhone 4, video chatting has become old hat these days—though recently it’s been getting quite the workout.

With all the attention on FaceTime, and what I’d wager is unprecedented usage of the feature, its shortcomings have started to become painfully evident. As good as it is, there’s definitely room for improvement.

Stand in the place where you live

It took Apple a surprisingly long time to add multi-party video chatting to FaceTime. Though the original one-on-one video chat was first introduced in 2010, it wasn’t until 2018 that the company finally added group chat capabilities. And, in typical Apple fashion, it overshot the mark—no limit of four or five people here: you could have a group FaceTime chat with up to 32.

In order to combat the problem of how you display 32 people on a single screen, Apple tried an innovative approach with a variety of little windows, which will grow larger and take focus when the person in them is speaking.

In theory, that might work well, but when you have a family that likes to talk (and, more significantly, interrupt each other) as much as I do, you quickly find out that it’s less than practical, as the windows constantly resize, in worse cases inducing nausea or, at least, just becoming annoying.

Say what you will for the boring nature of a standard grid layout, but it certainly has simplicity going for it. It would be a welcome update for Apple to add at least an option for a standard static grid, and the queasier among us would certainly thank them.

Share with the group

As long as we’re on the topic of group FaceTime calls, they could stand a little bit of beefing up. Until these past few weeks, I doubt many people actually spent a lot of time using the multiparty option, but now it’s being stacked up against other tools, such as Zoom, Skype, and HouseParty, all of which offer lots of additional features on top of what FaceTime does.

zoom everyone 4 Mark Hachman / IDG

Third-party applications like Zoom (above) often have the functionality not found in FaceTime. But since FaceTime is built-in, it would be nice if it had a little more than a bare-bones feature set.

Maybe Apple’s happy with that, providing the bare bones options and letting those who need additional functionality go to third-party apps. But FaceTime still has that difficult to…

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