Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for September 25th, 2013

FaceTime Audio Over a Cellular Connection

A long review necessitates some followup, and this one’s pretty awesome. I said:

In iOS 7, Apple continues to erode away at their dependence on others: FaceTime now has audio-only chats. You can tap the icon for either a video or audio chat, and it’ll launch just like a phone call. Unlike video calls, which is now available on a cell connection with some carriers, audio calls are WiFi-only for now.

I got this one wrong in the best possible way. In fairness, so did Craig Federighi; at WWDC, he stated:1

… FaceTime audio, where you now can do high-quality audio calls over WiFi on any iOS device.

A few readers wrote me to let me know that FaceTime audio is, indeed, available over a cell connection. That certainly piqued my interest. If most of your friends use iOS devices, you could (theoretically) dump everything except your data plan, and pay as you go for specific instances of SMS messages or phone calls. That’s an intriguing prospect.

Well, I tested it, and it works. Beautifully.

Even over the 3G HSPA+ connection of my iPhone 4S, the audio quality was superb, and I didn’t notice any dropouts. A minute of FaceTime audio consumed 569 KB of data, compared to 3.2 MB per minute for FaceTime with video. Unless you have an extremely low cap on your data plan, it’s almost certainly cheaper for you to use FaceTime, and there’s no additional cost for a long-distance call.

Now that I know this, my only complaint is that calls don’t default to FaceTime, in the same way that Messages tries to send iMessages before using SMS. That, and some form of FaceTime voicemail, would be tempting additions to Apple’s increasingly-robust protocol. This is great news for users.


Post-Publishing Review Notes

Just a few bullet points regarding my review:

  • The traffic I received last week from Reddit, Techmeme, and ZDNet accounted for approximately 12 GB of transferred data over the course of that week. I hosted all images on Flickr, so that’s almost entirely text, plus the few audio files embedded in the post.
  • The traffic I received in the past day or so from Daring Fireball accounted for approximately 40 GB of transferred data, which is insane.
  • The post is approximately 15,700 words long, and took around four weeks to write.
  • I took about a hundred screenshots. Most didn’t make it into the review.

I want to say an earnest “thank you” to each and every one of you who read the review, or passed it along to your friends and followers. I appreciate all of the very kind and thoughtful feedback I’ve received. It means a lot to me.


  1. While transcribing this from the keynote video, I noticed that they immediately switched to a shot of a guy in the audience wearing a Skype shirt. Cute. ↩︎

Can Apple Announce the Rest of 2013′s Products in Just One Event?

Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac doubts that Apple will be able to launch the rest of their 2013 lineup — including “secret Mac-related hardware that nobody knows about”, which is such a tease — in a single event.

I disagree. Apple is getting really efficient with their press events; the iPhone 5C/S announcement took almost exactly one hour, excluding the Elvis Costello performance at the end. The smaller updates on Gurman’s list (iPad Mini spec bump, Haswell MacBook Pros, and Mavericks details) could take as little as five minutes apiece. Others, like the retina iPad Mini and updated iWork suite, might take ten-to-fifteen each. I don’t anticipate a Final Cut Pro update to make an appearance, unless it’s bundled with the Mac Pro bit.

Instagram for iOS 7

From the Instagram blog:

In this update you will find that we’ve increased the size of photos and videos in your feed so that they expand to the edges of your screen. We’re also happy to say that increased size means increased resolution, so photos and videos will be clearer and more vibrant than ever.

This, I like. The edge-to-edge photos are excellent, though it does mean that the 612 × 612 pixel photos will be expanded to fit the 640 pixel wide display of the iPhone. Instagram says that they’ve increased the resolution of the photos, but this photo, posted with the updated version, is at the old 612-pixel resolution. A little bit of URL hacking (replacing the _7 at the end with _5 or _6) reveals thumbnail-sized copies, but nothing larger than 612 pixels wide. Very curious.

This update also feels incomplete. I appreciate the revised profile and timeline views: both look fantastic, and are complementary to the iOS 7 aesthetic. But the camera view hasn’t been updated, and comparatively feels very heavy. Worse still is the icon, which is a relic of the days of iOS 5. I love Instagram, but I have always disliked that icon.

Clear Responds to the Pricing Backlash

Dan Counsell, of Realmac Software:

As a small team, the backlash to the disappearance of Clear for iPhone has been incredibly tough. We’ve been working incredibly hard on Clear for iPad, and simply wanted to offer it in a way that was both sustainable for the team that builds it, and desired by users.

Pretty disappointing that they felt the need to do this. Charging a fair price for quality software shouldn’t be seen as an affront to users, or as gouging them.

There are always going to be users who complain about price, and there’s nothing developers can — or should — do to mitigate that. Developers should charge what they think their software is worth, and people who don’t want to pay that much should suck it up. The Omni Group charges $20 for OmniFocus, and users love it. I don’t see a reason why Real Mac shouldn’t charge $3 for Clear.

Samsung Counters iPhone 5S With a Golden Galaxy S4

Vlad Savov, the Verge:

Two weeks after Apple’s September 10th reveal of a champagne-colored iPhone, Samsung is launching its own golden phone in the shape of a new Gold Edition Galaxy S4. There are two options, Gold Pink or Gold Brown, which Samsung is proudly showing off on its United Arab Emirates social media outlets.

Can’t Samsung do anything unique?

But what this does mean is that the Galaxy Gear is a wearable computer, not a smartwatch. Like other portable computers, the Galaxy Gear is a high-power machine that attempts to clone the functionality of larger devices. It’s infinitely extensible and exhaustively feature-packed at the expense of battery and, I believe, livability.

Oh right. It’s difficult to decide whether Samsung’s level of unoriginality is worse than their clear incompetence at developing something new.

Update: Apparently, this thing was launched on August 27, two days before Apple’s iPhone launch. This is according to a Samsung blog post which reads as oddly defensive.