Why is macOS FaceTime so bad at following human interface guidelines?

So, I use FaceTime because I use Apple products, and many of the people I want to talk to do as well. I like the idea of end to end encryption, because I like my privacy.

But FaceTime is a major rule breaker. Here are some examples

  1. It is designed for built in cameras, and causes problems for me, as I use a Mac mini, with an external webcam. (iSight, firewire, antique) If I open FaceTime with the camera off, it says “No camera available. To use FaceTime, turn on the camera.” It will not let me see the call log until I turn on my camera and then restart the app. The coders are assuming you have a built in, always on camera. A very poor assumption for me. (and before you criticize me for using an antique camera, keep in mind that the coders included support for the camera, as it is fully functional, as long as it is on before FaceTime opens.)

  2. Speaking of call log, the FaceTime log is not one. It is mere window dressing, as it only shows you the call with no duration, and no indication of inbound or out. And the app icon shows me a badge with a number, but if I open the app, there is scant indication of what items the badge was referring to. Have they never hear of Bold or Italic? The only way I have found is to click on an entry and then change the pane from “All” to “Missed” or vice versa, to see if the badge goes away, or decrements. This effectively makes the badge useless. And the panes should include Inbound and Outbound, like a real call log.

  3. If I receive a call when my camera is off, I can’t answer it, because the app can’t sense me turning on the camera. This is just substandard coding in my opinion. My only choice is to call them back.

  4. If I call someone, and the call times out, I am left with a screen titled “nnnn is not available for FaceTime”, and three icons at the bottom, one for calling back, one for closing, and one for messaging. If I click on the close icon the window closes, but if I click on the red window close button (upper left), it gives me a dialog: “End Call? Closing the window will end the current call.” and gives me a choice of “Cancel”, or “End Call” while still showing “is not available for FaceTime” (Which of course means that there really is no call to end. Just a failed attempt.) As a bonus, if I click on “End Call”, it quits out of FaceTime.

I find the iOS apps to have some similar deficiencies, with the addition that it is all too easy for a mistaken touch to initiate a call, instead of having a call button icon, the entire entry is the call button, with the exception of the ⓘ icon. And the entries are not a log, just a list of people you have called.

I understand that I am in the minority as other Mac models have built in cameras, but proper interface design handles even the minority cases. The FaceTime coding team needs to go back and read the book, Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines (you can get it online, for free :slight_smile:

Even Zoom has a better interface.

To be fair, Apple hasn’t followed its own Human Interface Guidelines for years. Consistency of UI is not a priority for Apple these days, or anyone else, for that matter.

That said, those FaceTime problems aren’t simply a result of failure to follow HIG. Those are bad coding, period. There’s no excuse for FaceTime to not be able to do anything if you don’t already have the camera on, given that it otherwise fully supports your camera. That’s a functionality issue, not an interface problem.

Unfortunately, this appears to be an iSight-specific problem. I saw it for years. When I got a new Mac running Catalina, I discovered that the iSight became a video-only device - audio stopped working.

I finally replaced it with a cheap Logitech USB web camera, which doesn’t have these problems with FaceTime. (I blogged about this in January. Scroll down to the “Bye Bye iSight camera” section).

Apple does seem to be coasting as far as HIG goes. But years ago, when I used to write code, following HIG led to good code overall, including functionality.

It probably is, but the problems existed when I was using High Sierra. To keep the camera running under Catalina, I had to install the iSight firewire drivers, as they are no longer included in the OS distribution.

The FaceTime coders did not include support for the camera, it’s up to the operating system to figure out what cameras there are and then make a list of sources available to whatever applications are interested. The iSight is strange for a webcam in that it has an off switch but it is not strange for no camera to be available because Mac minis and Pros exist and unplugable webcams exist. Therefore, I agree that it’s bad, lazy really, for FaceTime to not permit you to use functionality that doesn’t require a camera when you don’t have an active camera.

I use an iSight camera with a 16-inch MacBook Pro, hardware that can’t run anything older than macOS Catalina, and I didn’t have to do anything to make the camera work with it (other than string together a ridiculous chain of cables and hardware to go from FireWire 400 to Thunderbolt 3). If I google “iSight firewire drivers” I do find discussions of iSightAudio.driver not being in Catalina but since I never cared about using its microphone (probably forgetting it even had one), that didn’t matter to me.

We’re in the third decade of the century, if an iSight doesn’t completely work with a newer OS or on M1 Macs, it’s okay to move on. If anyone is jonesing for an expensive (the iSight was $149 in 2003), cylindrical webcam, you can get the Dell UltraSharp Webcam (it does look like it’s very good, something between the various Logitechs and DSLR-as-webcam options). And if you unplug it, FaceTime probably still won’t work :wink:.

Sorry if I wasn’t clear. The iSight problem you are reporting is quite old. I was definitely experiencing it with Sierra (10.12). I’m not sure when the bug started surfacing, but Apple hasn’t really cared much about the iSight for a long time (it was discontinued in 2006).

When I upgraded my Mac from a 2011 mini (running SIerra) to a 2018 mini (running Catalina), its problems got worse. Although I was able to connect it with three adapter cables (TB3-to-TB2, TB2-to-FW800, FW800-FW400), and FaceTime/PhotoBooth was able to see it and access its video, I was unable to get any audio from it.

I only learned about third-party device drivers after I had already replaced it with the Logitech camera and I haven’t cared enough since then to go back and try it.

In the final analysis, as much as I like some of its features (e.g. mechanical focus and integrated lens cap), the iSight is only a 640x480 camera, so even an el-cheapo USB camera is going to look better.