A few years ago I used to spend a fortune on calls to other European countries and further afield. All that changed with the arrival of VoIP apps such Skype. WhatsApp, Google Voice and Fring all have their followers and all have had their moment in the sun. But I do have some concerns over security. In the past I have given several of these apps permission to access my contacts book and I now sort of regret that. In order to use them efficiently you do need to allow them to get inside Contacts but none of us has control of what other use is made of the information.
I have come to the conclusion that I can trust Apple, probably alone, with the information since it is already sitting on their server farms dotted around the world. All my stuff is up there in the iCloud whether I like it or not.
This is not the only reason I have come to rely exclusively on Apple’s FaceTime. It so happens that almost all my regular contacts use an iPhone and many also have Macs or iPads. Up to now, thought, the snag with FaceTime was that it offered only video communication―leading often to broken calls and constant “redialling”. Last week, with the must-have update to Mavericks 10.9.2 we can now use FaceTime Audio. I’ve been giving it a run over the past few days and can report that voice clarity is exceptional most of the time, especially on my fast home network, and the reliability of calls is much improved over the more bandwidth-hungry video. If you haven’t already tried FaceTime Audio, Jonny Evans at Computerworld has put together a mini guide to get you started.
With all these advances in communication, the poor old landline is nearing extinction. Mine seldom rings and when it does I get something of a shock. I confess to some irritation at having to pick up the phone and the first question that pops into my mind is why the caller didn’t use the more convenient cellphone number. This is especially annoying when I am out and messages are left on the landline when I could have been contacted at any time on the iPhone. There is now no overriding need for landlines in the home and I expect them to be extinct within ten years. If I were to move home in the near future I would have to think hard about the need for a landline¹ and thousands must be in the same position.
¹ I acknowledge that a landline is still essential for many as a means of accessing the internet, so it will have a purpose until other means are found to deliver broadband services. In my case I am lucky enough to have Virgin cable broadband running at 120Mbps, shortly to be boosted at no extra cost to 152Mbps. So I could cut the landline and live happily.