Apple, Companies, Software Programs

Guide to FaceTime HD (Plus Why Video Chatting on Macs is No Longer Free)


Earlier this morning Apple refreshed its MacBook Pro family. Among other things, the new MacBook Pro has brought us faster Sandy Bridge processors, AMD instead of Nvidia graphics, a new high-speed connection called Thunderbolt and an improved webcam with three times higher resolution than the previous generation.

More precisely, the new camera has a 1280 by 1024 pixel resolution. We haven’t had a chance to lay our hands on one of the new notebooks, but Apple says they FaceTime in high definition (720p) resolution and a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio. To support this higher fidelity, Apple has updated the FaceTime for Mac software.

Even though previous betas could be downloaded for free, the updated page on Apple’s site says FaceTime is now being distributed exclusively through the Mac App Store. A click later, we learn FaceTime can be installed on our Mac in exchange for 99 cents. A latte later, the FaceTime icon landed on our dock.

The first thing we notice, the software runs on Macs without a webcam, unlike betas that put up a warning before quitting. It sports a borderless appearance with window controls that fade away, akin to QuickTime X on Snow Leopard. A quick check in the About dialogue reveals it has exited beta and is now at version 1.0.

Like before, FaceTime for Mac supports Intel-based Macs with an internal or external iSight camera, a FireWire DV camcorder or a USB video class camera. Making HD video calls requires a built-in FaceTime HD camera and a one megabit per second upstream and downstream Internet connection.

Many existing Macs can receiving an HD video call while sending standard  definition video. Only standard-definition video calling is supported on Macs with a standard-definition webcam, as well as iPhone 4 and the current-generation iPod touch. It’ll be interesting seeing whether Apple will provide the application for free as part of Mac OS X Lion. Included below is the complete feature list and a couple of screenshots.

FaceTime for Mac features
  • Simple to get started
    • setup is quick and easy ? just enter your Apple ID
    • with just one click, you can make a video call to an iPhone 4, an iPod touch, or another Mac
  • Easy-to-organize contacts
    • make calls using your existing Address Book contacts ? you don?t have to enter your contacts from scratch
    • add the people you call most often to your Favorites list
    • quickly review your past calls with Recents
  • High-definition video
    • receive HD video calls at up to 720p on supported, Intel-based Macs
    • a Mac with a standard-definition camera delivers up to VGA-quality video for Mac-to-Mac calls
  • Elegant interface
    • window and playback controls fade away so the focus stays on your conversation
    • view transitions smoothly when an iPhone 4 or iPod touch user switches from front to rear cameras or from portrait to landscape views
    • FaceTime’s widescreen aspect ratio makes it easy for families and groups to participate in a call
    • enjoy your video call full screen, using every inch of your beautiful Mac display
  • Ring anywhere, any time
    • incoming calls ring on your Mac, even if FaceTime isn?t running
    • if you have more than one Mac, incoming calls ring on every one so you can answer on the Mac that?s most convenient