The minute I saw Apple’s mockup of a FaceTime call taking place on an Android browser at its WWDC keynote, I texted my best friend. “Apple announced FaceTime for Android users,” I wrote her. “You can make a Zoom-like meeting link, and then I can join you from my phone.” I typed out three consecutive sobbing emojis to relay my happiness over one minor feature coming to iOS 15. But as an Android user, this one excites me the most.
Apple revealed that in iOS 15 FaceTime will look and function like a Zoom and Microsoft Teams conference call, right down to the grid view. You can also schedule calls, which will send out a link that folks from other devices can use to join in. If you’re using an Android or Windows device, you can select the link to open it in your browser. And from there, you can jump into a FaceTime call with an Apple user. The person scheduling the FaceTime call has to have an Apple device and an Apple account. Anyone else can then join in with that specified link, regardless if they’ve signed in to their own Apple account.
It’s easy to see this feature as another one of Apple’s ploys for ecosystem propagation. The pandemic forced us all to rely on video conferencing for work meetings and happy hours alike, and while this would’ve been a really useful feature a year ago, opening up FaceTime to other platforms in this manner lets Apple easily offer another alternative for virtually syncing up with co-workers, friends, and family from other platforms without any fragmentation — a problem that continues to plague Android. It also feels like a nice olive branch for a person like me, who isn’t interested in bringing Apple products into her life, though everyone else around me seems to use them.
On the Android side of things, we have Google Duo, which is a FaceTime-like video-chatting app. But no matter how hard I’ve tried all these years, I haven’t been able to get anyone to use it to call me — not even my husband, who is an Android user, but who remains committed to using Hangouts while it’s still around. For the most part, I’m the sole Green Bubble in my family and friend groups.
Since I had a kid, the disparity in video-chatting platforms has become even more apparent as loved ones come out of the woodwork to check in. “Can we FaceTime?” they’ll ask me. “I want to see your daughter!” The people who are usually asking me this are entitled to do so, namely grandparents and cousins. But coordinating with all of them can be hellish. And getting them to adopt an app that they’re not used to for the sole purpose of video chatting is an unnecessary lesson in patience.
iOS 15’s new FaceTime-in-the-browser ability is going to simplify the process of getting family on the line. I don’t have to change platforms to make it happen, and Apple gets to tout its abilities across the industry, plus the fact that every call is end-to-end encrypted. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
Of course, as with everything in life, there are caveats. You’ll have to generate a link every time you want to FaceTime with a person on another platform. My best friend would like her calls to be more spontaneous rather than sending through a link to make sure I’m available and wait for me to join the room. It’s not the most streamlined way of chatting. It’s no different than trying to make sure she’s available on WhatsApp, however, and at least this way, she can be the one to schedule the call and hop on natively on her end. If that means she and my kid can connect more often, I’m willing to accommodate it.