FaceTime for Mac hands-on: it works, it's rough

We've been anticipating FaceTime for the Mac ever since we spied the feature on the iPhone, and now Apple is making our dreams a reality with a handy new beta Mac OS X application dubbed "FaceTime." It's not an iChat replacement; far from it, in fact. Instead, the standalone, lightweight app dedicates itself to FaceTime calls only, with no sign of your handy AIM or Gtalk buddy list to help you along. It pulls its list of contacts strictly from the Mac Address Book, with no editing available in app, and you'd better hope you have a good handle on that list of contacts (our Gmail-tainted version could certainly use some work). You have to click on a person's name and then guess which email or phone number they have associated with a FaceTime account -- none of the helpful icons from the iPhone have made it over to guide you. It took quite a bit of extra-FaceTime communication to sort out what was what, but once you guess at the right bit of info to place the call with, it's typical Apple simplicity.

From the phone side it's intuitive enough: call the email address associated with an Apple ID and you get the computer, call the phone number and you get the iPhone. Conveniently, your computer will "ring" even if the app is closed, though you can turn this feature off in System Preferences if it unsettles you. Hopefully Apple takes this "beta" moniker seriously and has some extra features to add before it releases the final version of the app. We also wouldn't mind seeing this folded into iChat proper -- why have two first party video chat methods? Either way, computer-to-phone conversations are here to stay. The payoff? The psychedelic experience of viewing four Paul Millers simultaneously.

Want a special little bonus? You can apparently video chat with iChat and FaceTime simultaneously, though we tried to add Skype as a third conspirator into the mix and failed (there's a pic of our experiment after the break). Oh, you should also know that there's apparently no way to shut off the video in FaceTime outside of quitting the app or physically covering up the camera. EXCLUSIVE: Is Steve Jobs Watching You Sleep? More at 11. %Gallery-105587%