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iPhone 5 with 720p FaceTime Camera May Bump Mobile Video Growth
September 12, 2012 | David S. Maldow, Esq.
So what does this mean for mobile videoconferencing? Let's take a look.
720p Forward Facing Camera: While most of the focus will be on the powerful new iSight camera on the back of the phone, I was more interested in the one we use for VC. While the currently supported VGA resolution on the iPhone 4S looks great on iPhone to iPhone calls, the higher resolution will certainly be appreciated. More importantly, the difference between VGA and 720p is extremely noticeable and appreciated on larger meeting room monitors. For the first time, iPhone users can use their mobile VC apps to attend meetings on an even level with the other 720p meeting participants. Hook the iPhone to a medium sized display and you have an instant 720p VC endpoint.
Larger / Four Inch Screen: I am still surprised at what a compelling experience FaceTime can deliver over a 3.5 inch screen. But it is clearly an experience compromise and every new pixel in the 4 inch screen will be appreciated. Perhaps more importantly, the new screen is now much closer to a 16:9 aspect ratio. This should allow 3rd party VC apps to have more natural interoperability with traditional 16:9 systems. I am particularly impressed by how Apple balanced their need to meet consumer demand for a larger screen, with their previously stated design philosophy which concluded the old phone was perfect for one handed use. By making the phone taller, but not wider, we get more screen area without needing to purchase a thumb extension.
FaceTime Over Cellular: This upgrade arguably addresses one of the two biggest FaceTime weaknesses. It isn't really mobile videoconferencing if I only use it within 500 feet of my home wireless router. FaceTime as a truly mobile solution is extremely compelling. FaceTime boasts the ease of use that made Apple what it is today, along with a surprisingly great quality video experience. The ability to use FaceTime when out and about really opens up the possibilities and should encourage greater usage. This can contribute to the "rising tide" of video which hopefully will continue to encourage the adoption of business VC solutions at the workplace. Keep in mind, FaceTime's lack of interop with other solutions will still be a drag on its potential for viral growth.
Another note on FaceTime over cellular. As I previously wrote in my coverage of AT&T's questionable restrictions for this new feature, it is unclear whether existing data plans will include FaceTime. Keep tuned as this story develops.
Better Audio: Those old earphones are a bit uncomfortable. Whether I am using them for VC or just to listen to music, these new EarPods look like they will be a relief. Now if they can only figure out a way to keep my cord from getting tangled it would be perfect. Other audio enhancements may improve the VC experience, including more / better mics on the phone itself and better speakers. Also support for wideband audio may not get a lot of attention in the press, but it means calls will sound a lot more natural (once the apps begin to support it).
Message for VC Vendors: Rather than go into great detail on every item in the laundry list of improvements and new features, I have been focusing on what matters for VC. But there is a laundry list and it is impressive. The screen isn't just bigger, it has a higher resolution and greater color saturation. The new iPhone 5 also has a faster processor, a sexy new connector, smarter Siri (we will see, we will see), an awesome new maps app, a better phone app, a "Passbook" virtual ticket holder, etc. etc. etc. It has the same pricing as the iPhone 4S, while being thinner, having a better battery life, and way more power. This is going to fly off the shelves, and all the new iPhone 5 owners will be looking for the best VC app to use with their new handheld 720p VC endpoint. If you don't have your app ready, you better get on it.
About the Author
David Maldow, Esq. is a visual collaboration technologist and analyst with the Human Productivity Lab and an associate editor at Telepresence Options. David has extensive expertise in testing, evaluating, and explaining telepresence and other visual collaboration / rich media solutions. David is focused on providing third-party independent analysis and opinion of these technologies and helping end users better secure their telepresence, videoconferencing, and visual collaboration environments. You can follow David on Twitter and Google+.
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