In a recent podcast appearance, former Apple engineer Justin Santamaria recalled the first-ever FaceTime demo before the official announcement, including Steve Jobs’ priceless reaction. FaceTime was introduced in 2010 alongside the completely redesigned iPhone 4 and changed the way people could connect and communicate with one another. The iPhone 4 brought a slew of massive upgrades over the previous generation and was the first iPhone to be shipped with an Apple-designed processor. The A4 chip made the smartphone snappier than the first two versions. It came with additional sensors to improve the user experience, like the gyroscope, which is a staple of modern smartphones and wearables. Arguably the most crucial addition came with software and the FaceTime announcement.

The iPhone 4 brought FaceTime to iOS, but the software wasn’t ingrained in the entire Apple ecosystem from the start. FaceTime was only available on iOS 4, which limited its compatibility with older iPhones. However, the video-calling service was available on select iPod Touches, which expanded its usefulness. In late 2010, Mac OS X Snow Leopard brought FaceTime to the Mac for use in notebooks, iMacs and Apple Cinema Displays. Anyone with an Apple ID could effortlessly communicate within the Apple ecosystem, which was a game-changer for mobile communication. According to an Apple engineer, though, it wasn’t always clear that FaceTime would be the resounding success it turned out to be.

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Justin Santamaria, a former Apple engineer who designed software for the company in the 2000s and 2010s, appeared on the Techmeme Ride Home podcast and spoke about his involvement in key software projects. Specifically, Santamaria worked on iTunes for Windows, which was especially important since iPods and iPhones required a computer with iTunes for the initial setup. The engineer also worked on iChat, a mobile communication service that preceded the market dominance of iMessage and FaceTime. According to Santamaria, to the software engineers at Apple, iChat was “a perfect vehicle to show how you can video conference simply and easily.

Steve Jobs’ Reaction To First FaceTime Demo

The first-ever FaceTime demo with the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs was an iChat ‘You + 3’ call, which was a video conference call with up to four people. To test the software, Apple designers and executives had to join the call separately on individual Macs to test the feature, and the software designers weren’t exactly sure how the test would play out. Santamaria recalls he was instructed, “Whatever happens, pretend like it’s going well because it’s beta software, and this is weeks or months before release.” When it was time for Steve Jobs to join the call, Santamaria remembers the original ‘boom’ sound that signified the switch to a 3-D call window with up to four people. Jobs’ response to the demo was, “oh my god, I’m going to make the crowd s**t their pants,” Santamaria said.

As the company became more invested in the mobile communication market, with the iPhone and iPod Touch, Santamaria confirmed that iChat became the groundwork for FaceTime. As the software has developed over the years, FaceTime has become more like the video conferencing powerhouse that it was initially based on. In 2020, the company brought the group FaceTimes to all of its software platforms, allowing for up to 32 people to join a single video call. Apple’s mobile communication services — iMessage and FaceTime — are significant draws to the platforms since users can easily connect with their friends and family. As Santamaria recalls, Steve Jobs knew from the first demo that iChat, which became crucial in the development of FaceTime, was a game-changer.