Apple introduced a number of features along with its iPad tablet computing device, but the company held back the popular FaceTime video chat application during the initial iPad release. Though other mobile devices offered video chat capabilities, Apple did not include FaceTime or the necessary hardware to use it until the iPad 2 debuted in 2011.
The Apple FaceTime application allows users to establish real-time, synchronous video chat sessions with other FaceTime users. The software relies on a front-facing camera, a small camera mounted on the front of the iPad or other computing device, to capture an image of the user’s face. The software compresses up to 30 of these images per second, enough to create the appearance of smooth video, and sends them across an Internet connection to the remote FaceTime user. Software on the recipient’s Apple device translates the images for display.
FaceTime requires FaceTime software, a front-facing camera and an Apple ID necessary for connecting to FaceTime servers. The requirement for a front-facing camera is why FaceTime does not work on the original iPad but shipped as a pre-installed application on later iPad models.
The original Apple iPad, introduced in 2010, featured only a rear-facing camera designed for taking still photos and basic videos. The iPad 2, introduced in 2011, added a front-facing camera capable of capturing video of up to 30 frames per second and a resolution of 640 pixels by 480 pixels. Even though the next generation iPad, introduced in 2012, upgraded the rear camera to capture 1080p high definition video, this device maintained the same VGA-quality front-facing camera.
Because the original iPad lacked the hardware necessary for video chat sessions, Apple began including the FaceTime application with the iPad 2 in 2011. FaceTime software is also available on many of Apple's other devices, including the iPhone, iPod Touch, Macbook laptop computers and Mac desktop computers. According to the company’s website, FaceTime users can establish video conversations with one another regardless of the hardware they use; for this reason, iPad owners may be able to establish FaceTime conversations with iPhone or Mac users even if they do not own iPads.
Even though the front-facing camera on the iPad supports only VGA-quality video, higher quality cameras on Macbook and Mac computers allow some users to communicate in high definition. For this reason, iPad owners may see some FaceTime users in high definition despite their own device’s limitations. In addition, iPad users may switch between cameras after establishing a video call, so users can switch to the rear-facing camera to provide a different view to the remote user. The front-facing camera on iPad 2 and new iPad devices also works with other applications, so iPad owners may be able to establish non-FaceTime video conversations with users who have other types of devices.
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