Apple’s FaceTime is a Total Failure

September 6, 2012

If you are an Fanapple then stop reading now. Go read some MG Siegler stuff elsewhere. This one is about an Apple failure, so no point in you staying around and flaming the comments.

In June, Apple have boasted a lot of numbers during WWDC. Gleaned out of Alex Wilhelm’s coverage of the event, we had the following numbers.

For the event itself:

  • Apple’s 23rd WWDC
  • Over 1,000 engineers in the event
  • Tickets sold out in 1:43 hours
  • People from over 60 countries attended

For the App Store:

  • 400 million user accounts
  • Over 650,000 apps in the sotre
  • 225,000 apps for the iPad alone
  • Over 30,000,0000,000 downloaded apps
  • Apple paid out over $5,000,000,000 to developers
  • App store is available in 120 countries

For OS X:

  • Around 66,000,000 Mac users
  • 26,000,000 copies of OS X Lion shipped

For iOS:

  • 365,000,000 iOS devices
  • 80% of the users running iOS 5
  • 7,000,000,000 push notifications sent daily

For iMessage:

  • 140,000,000 iMessage users
  • 150,000,000,000 messages sent so far, a billion a day at this point

Some other services:

  • 125,000,000 iCloud users
  • 10,000,000,000 tweets sent through iOS 5
  • 47% of photos shared on Twitter are sent from iOS 5 devices
  • 130,000,000 Game Center users

There are some more numbers and announcements there, and we’ve already got accustomed to being bombarded by Apple with numbers in each WWDC, so this one isn’t any different.

It isn’t any different in one more aspect: there’s no mention about FaceTime’s numbers, and to me, no numbers mean only one thing: the numbers aren’t impressive.

Apple’s FaceTime service hasn’t been adopted as Apple has expected and its numbers are too low to boast at.

How unimpressive is FaceTime?

If you take iMessage in the 9 months of its existence until WWDC, it had an average of 120 messages per user per month.

If you take Skype in September 2011, it had 300,000,000 minutes of video minutes a day. If this same value stayed the same since September, then at the same time of iMessage existence, it would have gathered 81,000,000,000 video minutes. That’s a bit over 50% of the amount of messages over iMessage.

For video calls versus instant messages – this ratio is huge.

FaceTime doesn’t come close. We would have known about it if it did.

There aren’t a lot of areas related to the iPhone where Apple doesn’t publicize usage numbers and FaceTime is one of them. The only reason I see for this secrecy is the lack of success on FaceTime’s part with users.

I was one of those who thought that Apple will move the video calling industry forward. I was wrong.

In the end, Google pulled an Apple instead. It brought WebRTC that will now disrupt the industry.

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  1. @Tsahi,
    Indeed FaceTime has not proliferated as expected, I am wondering about reasons for this given quality wise it is quite good. Few reasons that come to my mind are,
    * by nature it is limited to iOS community (I am wondering even within the iOS community how it is doing) => maybe if it is opened up its take up will be much more
    * it was not available on mobile networks till recently => not really portable usage
    One thought was if there is fundamental video conferencing social hindrance issue is at play, but given Skype is doing good this does not seem to be the issue.

    What is your view on this?

    1. I had similair questions.

      One reason could be that maybe Skype is used more on desktops and laptops. And iPhone and iPad are connected with less bandwidth or have crappy connectify ?

      Or just because the iPhone / iPad codec don’t degrade well (I’m not sure what they use) ?

  2. Tsahi,

    I guess we shared the same hope that FaceTime will do to video communication what iPhone did to mobile devices, Apps, Music…
    Unfortunately, it didn’t.
    Now, don’t get me wrong. I think Apple has great products. I’m using some of them and I love them. Apple has this magic way of making people forgive them for some bad things they do (remember those connectors you pay some 30 USD for) but when it comes to using a service it is not a one-time decision the person makes to buy a product because it is cool. It is an on-going decision to use FaceTime for a call instead of the alternatives. In this case, if the product is not easy to use people will walk away from it, even if it comes from Apple.

    If I would highlight the main reasons I see for this failure I would list the following:
    1. Presence – You never know if the person you want to call has a FaceTime enabled device and if this person is available for receiving a call (this is not only a presence status the person would set manually, it is also the network he is connected to). Making a video call is not like making a voice call. When making a voice call, you just call the person, he answers or you just leave a voice mail. When making a video call, presence is the dial tone, you first IM, you ask the person if he can accept a video call and then you connect via video.

    2. Making the call – If the way to start a video call is from Presence and IM there should be a way to start it from the IM session and even allow app developers to initiate a FaceTime call from their App.

    3. Island – Apple users are a big island but it is still an island. Apple didn’t open up for developers to connect to their networks. If they would have provided some kind of an SDK for people to build Gateways I’m sure many companies would have added FaceTime interface to their Gateway, SBC and other servers. Apple decided not to open up.

    In summary, I think the reason is simple. Apple failed where it usually succeeds, ease of use. And like any other company when your product is not easy to use you fail. It happens even to the holy people of Apple.


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