Touching FaceTime

Touching FaceTime 1

Immediately following Apple’s event last week we posted some thoughts on how the iPod touch would be handling FaceTime—clearly using a separate app and requiring an Apple ID and e-mail address to register with the FaceTime network.  Now that we’ve had a chance to see the fourth-generation iPod touch in action, this has been confirmed.  However, these changes only pertain to getting the phone numberless iPod touch onto the FaceTime network—the process for the iPhone 4 remains unchanged other than the ability to contact iPod touch users using an e-mail address.

Setting up FaceTime on the iPhone 4 has always been almost completely transparent to the end user. This is because every iPhone 4 is expected to have a unique cellular phone number that can be used to identify it for FaceTime. As a result, no other information is required, and the iPhone 4 just registers itself with your phone number and you’re ready to go.  Users can turn FaceTime off completely under their Phone settings, but that’s about the extent of the configuration and customization options.  Calling another iPhone user via FaceTime is therefore about as simple as calling their phone number.

Life on an iPod touch is a different matter, however. With no phone number to work with, the device needs to register using an e-mail address.  Since there’s no polite way for Apple to use your e-mail address without your consent, the FaceTime app on the iPod touch requires that you specifically sign up for the service with your Apple ID and provide the e-mail address that you would like to be used for FaceTime calls. You log in with your Apple ID and password—generally your iTunes Store account, supply your preferred e-mail address, and then verify your address by clicking a link in an e-mail message sent to that address.  You can change your e-mail address or add additional addresses that you can be reached at by visiting the FaceTime section in your iPod touch Settings.

Touching FaceTime 2

Once the relatively simple setup is complete however, it pretty much just works, although iPhone 4 users will also need to upgrade to iOS 4.1 in order to place or even receive FaceTime calls from iPod touch users. Further, making FaceTime calls using an e-mail address is a feature for the iPod touch only; the iPhone 4 still registers using its phone number only as it did in iOS 4.0.  This means that you’ll have to know what type of device the person you’re calling is using.

Another way to look at it is that your e-mail address is like a phone number to FaceTime, uniquely identifying the device rather than the person.  Except that’s not entirely true—you can sign up more than one iPod touch for the same Apple ID and e-mail address, something that’s not easily doable with a phone number on the iPhone.  Incoming FaceTime calls will ring on both devices, and can be answered from either one, but don’t expect to be able to use both devices for FaceTime at the same time.

The use of e-mail addresses and Apple IDs on the FaceTime network, however, opens up FaceTime to a whole new array of devices beyond the iPhone, since this change allows the FaceTime service to be accessible from any platform.  It’s a fairly safe bet that the next-generation iPad will be the next device at the FaceTime table, but there are many possibilities beyond that…. FaceTime integrated with iChat on the Mac?  A FaceTime app for Windows users?  A camera and FaceTime on the Apple TV?  In developing FaceTime, Apple has applied its usual panache at bringing technology to the masses, and it will be very interesting to see where FaceTime goes from here.

Updated: For more detailed information on setting up and troubleshooting FaceTime, please check out our new Complete Guide to FaceTime.

  1. Once the iPod touch is configured, it can definitely call an iPhone 4, but it uses the [i]phone number[/i] to do so, and not the e-mail address. Conversely, iPhone users can contact an iPod touch user by “calling” their e-mail address.

    Basically, iPhone 4 devices are contacted by phone number, iPod touch 4G devices are contacted by e-mail address.

  2. Once the Touch is configured, can it contact an iPhone, if the Touch users knows that person’s appropriate email?

    Likewise, can an iPhone 4 enjoy FaceTime with a Touch user?

    iPhone4’s are so scare in Canada I haven’t had much chance t tinker with it, never mind the latest iPod Touch.

    Presumably, we will eventually be able to communicate, using iChat, be it a desktop, iPad, iPhone or Touch (presumably)

  3. so is it impossible to have two ipod touches set up on the same apple ID and have both ipods not ring?

    ie. both ipods have their seperate unique username email address

    like one family with 2 or more ipod touches all on the same apple ID, and someone outside the family on an iphone/ipod touch wants to call the right person so only one ipod touch rings can each ipod have its own email call address even though they are on the same apple ID login?

  4. It’s actually based on the e-mail address, not the Apple ID. The Apple ID is just used for authentication and to maintain an account somewhere to associate with your e-mail address(es). You can setup any address you want on an iPod touch provided it hasn’t already been associated with a different Apple ID, so you can have two or more iPod touch devices that share the same Apple ID but use completely different e-mail addresses. You will simply need to verify any e-mail address that you add for FaceTime by clicking a link in an e-mail sent to that address.

    Note also that the Apple ID that you use for FaceTime doesn’t have to be the same as the Apple ID you use for other services like the iTunes Store or App Store, and definitely has nothing to do with the Apple ID configured in iTunes on your computer. You can setup a whole new account for each iPod touch that is used for nothing more than FaceTime. This would still be an “Apple ID” by definition but would just be used for FaceTime.

  5. Thanks for your responses Jesse. Just to clarify/confirm with the situation posed by Jay, will the two different iPod Touch devices be able to Facetime each other as long as they have different email addresses?

    I am looking at the screenshots you posted and trying to figure out if for the 2nd device, I am supposed to type in the same Apple ID as before (which will match the iTunes Library) or use the Create Account feature. Any information you have would be appreciated- I don’t want to regret it later on with an irreversible move which renders Facetime useless between two iPod Touch devices on the same Apple account.

  6. You can do it either way. If you want to setup a second Apple ID for FaceTime that’s an option, but you can also use the same Apple ID on both devices and simply register them under different e-mail addresses. It’s the e-mail address that FaceTime cares about, not the Apple ID — despite the fact that most Apple IDs are in fact e-mail addresses (and sadly, older, non-email-formatted Apple IDs don’t work for FaceTime).

    The only restriction is that whatever e-mail address you want to use must not already be registered with another Apple ID. Basically, a given e-mail address can only be associated with a single Apple ID, so if you want to use the same e-mail address that you use for your iTunes Store account, then you will have to use that Apple ID as well.

    Other than that, there’s really no reason at all that the Apple ID used by FaceTime has to be the same as your iTunes Store account or any other Apple ID that you use. Some prefer to keep it that way to reduce the number of IDs and passwords they have to remember, but in other cases there may be an advantage to using a different account just to keep things separate. In my case I used a completely different Apple ID as I don’t want to be forced to change my existing Apple ID username to be my e-mail address.

  7. Anyone ever tried this: I have an Iphone 4 and live in the USA, I have a friend in Australia with an Iphone 4. How can we facetime? Because with itouch, as long as you have wifi you can but you call the email address….does anyone know if this can be done? Can I register my email address for my phone? thax

  8. @ray (#7): No, there are not yet any FaceTime compatible applications for PCs or Macs, although there are rumours that something is coming in that regard.

    @JW (#8): Simply call your friend in Australia by tapping the “FaceTime” button in their contact record and using their phone number. FaceTime on an iPhone 4 uses the phone number as an “address” on the FaceTime network, but otherwise runs completely over Wi-Fi and doesn’t cost you any long distance fees. If you start with an actual voice call and then switch to FaceTime you’ll pay for the voice portion of the call (ie, the minute or two before you went over to FaceTime), but the FaceTime portion of the call will still be free as the phone network disconnects at that point and you’re switched over to Wi-Fi.

  9. Hi, i have a iphone4 and live in USA, my family has a ipod touch 4g and live in UK. how do i start a facetime call? they have set up the email for the ipod but when i try to start the call it says they are not available e.t.c.
    Do they have to start it, if so how?

  10. I have an ipod touch 4 and my sister has the iphone 4..facetime works when she calls my email..but when i try to call her number using my ipod it rings for a few seconds then says ‘Facetime Failed..***** is not available for facetime’
    Why does it do that??

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *