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. ↥︎