When FaceTime over cellular first launched as a feature on iPhones and iPads back in September 2012, Apple allowed wireless carriers to determine how they’d implement it. Verizon Wireless and Sprint simply opened it up to all customers with a data plan. But AT&T, not exactly known for outstanding customer service, decided to limit FaceTime only to those customers who paid for shared data plans. The move drew the ire of iPhone and iPad users on the carrier and even drew the attention of the FCC. After public pressure mounted, AT&T took a step back and opened up FaceTime to users with LTE-equipped iDevices, but those on older models were still out of luck.
Today, the company has seemingly come to its senses, announcing on its consumer blog that FaceTime over cellular will be made available to all iPhone and iPad owners with a data plan.
When it comes to the various sub-sections of the general technology industry, the single most interesting market that I’m following right now is hands-down the mobile industry. Sometimes it really is a bit of a challenge to realize how far innovations in the mobile sector or any other subset of the tech industry for that matter has grown and adapted over the last few years. I mean, it wasn’t long ago that text messaging and the dreadful mobile browsers that came on what we now mockingly refer to as “dumb-phones” were seen as the cutting edge. Now mobile phones are practically scaled down desktop workstations that allow users to constantly stay connected to everything around them. In fact, I personally find it comical that Apple calls its cellular offering the “iPhone,” because when it comes down to it the last thing that many people use the iPhone or other smart-phones for is as an actual…phone.
Of course, this is because most of what consumers do on their smart-phones now circulates directly around the Internet. Email and instant messaging have become common-pace in terms of mobile communication, and I don’t know a single smart-phone user that doesn’t use their device for looking up information or browsing the Internet at least every now and then. That said, while mobile handsets have evolved incredibly over the years and the affordability of these handsets has gotten to the point where just about anyone can afford a fancy new feature-rich phone, the cellular networks that users subscribe to have been much more stingy about data rates and how much mobile bandwidth a user gets for the money.
I don’t care what industry you’re in or what product you’re trying to push; if you work in sales you know that a higher number of potential customers leads to a higher number of real customers and ultimately more money in your pocket. That’s a simple common-sense thing and has applied to retail since the beginning of civilized times. So when you’re looking to make incredible numbers of sales where better is there to turn to than a country like China that sports one of the world’s largest populations and economies? This is a concept that Apple appears to be following with their renewed effort to make the Apple iPhone – a device that has gained incredible popularity and market traction in the United States and throughout the world – available to customers of China Mobile Ltd., China’s largest cellular network.
As the Wall Street Journal is reporting Apple’s current effort to bring the iPhone into the hands of China Mobile customers would give Apple a huge potential audience of more than six-hundred million people; a number more than threefold the less than two-hundred million users of China Unicom which currently has the iPhone available. With those kind of numbers it makes perfect sense that Apple is eager to get a piece of China’s pie. But will the California-based company be able to play catch-up and attract enough China Mobile users to justify their newfound efforts?
One of the most attractive features about the Apple iPhone 4 (and now the iPod Touch as well) is the FaceTime video conferencing technology. For those that are unfamiliar with this feature, it essentially allows parties to use built-in cameras on the handsets to place real-time video calls over WiFi. However, many people argue that being limited to WiFi is a major setback of the application. But I for one believe that WiFi communications technology is truly a step in the right direction for mobile communications.
Today, T-Mobile – one of the largest mobile carriers in the country – announced that they will be introducing WiFi-based audio calling on many equipped Android handsets. In short, this feature would allow end-users to place and receive phone calls and SMS message on their handsets, using WiFi connections when a cellular signal was unavailable. These calls (both foreign and international) would be priced lower than if they were carried out on the cellular network. For people in corporate environments or locations where cellular signals are less than sufficient, this new feature could be an amazing convenience.