Why FaceTime Audio Won't Replace Phone Calls

iMessage (for all its faults) is a huge reason why I never consider switching to another platform for any of my computing needs. I absolutely love that it:

  1. Works over WiFi since I have spotty cell service at work (even with a MicroCell from AT&T).
  2. Works on the Mac because I use it like a chat client with friends and co-workers.
  3. Requires very little setup so I know that pretty much anyone with an iPhone is using it by default.

When Apple launched FaceTime back in 2010, it was really the first video conferencing platform that didn't require something to be setup. It either works with your phone number or your Apple ID right out of the box. With iOS 7, Apple has released FaceTime Audio. With iMessage, they made SMS irrelevant for iOS users. iMessage just takes over and the users never knows (outside of green vs blue messages) what is happening. Unfortunately, FaceTime Audio is more like Skype Audio killer than it is creating a coup on voice minutes. Why is this?

  1. Where iMessage is the default, FaceTime Audio is simply an option when making calls. iMessage is very successful (in terms of user adoption) because it requires no extra step. My wife doesn't think about iMessage. Using FaceTime Audio will force her to make a choice on how to call me.

  2. Data plans aren't unlimited and long FaceTime Audio calls will use a decent amount of data. While it's nothing like transmitting video, it still averages out to be about 5 MB every for about every 10 minutes of usage. Over time, that can add up to be a decent chunk of your data usage. Even if you have a 5 GB plan, what about the person you are calling (my wife is on a 300 MB plan)?

  3. Voice minutes are pretty much unlimited now. My AT&T plan has unlimited nights and weekends and unlimited mobile to mobile (any carrier). I am using an average of 150 minutes a month at this point.

FaceTime Audio will be great when you are traveling in another country or wanting to make an overseas call (A recent episode of Out of School was recorded using it). I am just not sure it's going to replace traditional voice calls for me in the way iMessage replaced SMS.