The iPhone 4′s FaceTime Commercials (Watch)

There’s something surprisingly tragic about Apple’s latest touching, brilliant commercials for the iPhone 4′s FaceTime. At the end of each of these commercials – the first four below are vignettes about two new babies, one new hairdo, and a new set of braces – I feel a need for the people on either end to hug. But they can’t.

Now, of course, the FaceTime video call only brings them closer together than a plain old telephone call could have – or an email or an SMS or (does anybody send them anymore?) a letter. That’s what makes Facetime so miraculous: it is finally almost like being there. They can almost touch. And that’s what’s tragic: they can’t.

This is to say that FaceTime is terribly intimate. And that’s what struck me, too: In an instant, the video of the people shifts from broadcasting to intimacy, from making a YouTube video millions may see to making a call for one. Is this how we’ll use video now, to connect two-at-a-time? Or will that now seem smalltime? Will we use the front-facing camera to face the world still? Will video be public still or private?

I don’t know the answers to those questions. We’ll know only when these tools get into the hands of enough people – and when developers use the camera to create new applications and when AT&T gets its act together so we can use the camera anywhere, not just on wifi.

Maybe the original video vision of Seesmic (before it became a Twitter app) comes to life: we hold video conversations. Maybe the camera only makes it easier for anonymous pervs to peddle their penises on Chatroulette. Maybe we walk away creation toward communication. Maybe we leave time-shifting for live. Maybe we invent new forms of phone sex. Maybe Leo Laporte uses them to reinvent the podcast and cable news uses them to reinvent vox pop. Or maybe nothing changes as we already have cameras everywhere; these are merely more portable.

Watch the iPhone 4commercials and see what visceral ping it elicits in you.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diUjVY8zRJc

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niOCmIuts90

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCzzh-nexpg&feature=player_embedded

See MC Siegler breaking down the emotional appeal of the iPhone ads on TechCrunch here and here.

Cross posted at Buzzmachine.com

Jeff Jarvis blogs about media and news at Buzzmachine.com. The author of What Would Google Do? (HarperCollins 2009), Jarvis is associate professor and director of the interactive journalism program at ...read more

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