No one expected this. Or at least no one in the rumor mill with their heads stuck in the sand, saw this coming. Apple has widened the demographic that the FaceTime audio and video calling app is now available for. Till now an exclusive for Apple iPhone, iPad and Mac, FaceTime will soon be available for Android phone users as well as Windows PC users, via the web browser. This means that web browser support for video calls and video group calls pits Apple FaceTime against the likes of Zoom and Google Meet, which have seen a spike in popularity over the past few months as millions have stayed home due to the coronavirus pandemic. No clear date on when it will specifically be available but is expected to be rolling out later this year coinciding with the Fall 2021 release of iOS 15 for the iPhone.
The redesigned app will allow FaceTime users to generate scheduled meeting links, which can be opened by contacts who don’t have an iPhone or an Apple device, using the web browser on their Android phone or their PC. While Apple hasn’t released FaceTime as an app for other platforms yet, this could be a reaction to the need of video meeting apps as a daily driver for millions who need to stay connected with friends and family and also manage remote work. But there could be the line of thought that this is perhaps a year or so later than what would have been ideal for Apple, as the big push for FaceTime. It may still prove harder to wean users off Zoom, Google Meet or Microsoft Teams as preferred communication platforms, for instance. Unless those friends and family members with iPhones and iPads, have superb convincing skills.
A number of other features will also be coming with FaceTime, and that could prove to be the attraction for some, and these were shown off at the Apple WWDC 2021 keynote. There will be a new voice isolation feature that would block out ambient noise around you as you are on a FaceTime call. Spatial audio support will also be rolled out for the video and audio call platform, as well as the option to blur out the background in the portrait mode. SharePlay, a new sharing feature, will allow FaceTime users to drag audio and video content they may be watching, into the video calling app, to share with friends. Apple Music and Apple TV will be supported for SharePlay goodness, and Apple says apps including Disney Plus, Hulu, HBO Max and Twitch will also support this feature. Expect more apps to get added to the list ahead of FaceTime’s wider rollout.