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Help Apple: I need a child lock for FaceTime!

FaceTime

I’ve been abroad or away from home for roughly half of this year so far. I’ve been doing so much work in Richmond-upon-Thames that I eventually ended up getting an apartment there.

So I’m either in the States, somewhere in Europe, or Richmond.

Which means I’m not around to see baby Archie. Or, since he’s now turned 1, ‘little Archie’. I’m not entirely sure what the correct term at this point should be. He’s not toddling. He’s definitely not a baby either.

I wrote a while ago that he became ‘FaceTime aware’ — that is, he recognised me via FaceTime at the age of about 8.5 months. Ever since then I’ve been regularly using FaceTime to connect with him and my wife when I’m abroad.

We’ve got into a particularly good routine which, depending on the timezone, will see me ‘present’ for either his breakfast or his dinner, or thereabouts. When you’re thousands of miles away, it’s an utter-utter delight to see the flicker of recognition and total joy that spreads across his face when the FaceTime call commences.

He’s less interested after the initial hurrah. Once he’s said hello and perhaps waved a few times he gets on with the business of exploring the planet whilst my wife and I catch-up.

I don’t think I appreciate any other technology quite as much as FaceTime. You do have to hand it to Apple. Whatever your viewpoint of the company, the manner in which they implemented video calling is simply phenomenal. I know we’ve had the capability for years — indeed, I remember trying out video calling years ago (it’s STILL 40-50 pence per minute) but it was a) rubbish quality and b) prohibitively expensive.

FaceTime on the iPhone is brilliant. On the iPad 2 it’s brilliant +1. It’s magical. Archie loves it.

More recently Archie has begun responding to questions. Where is your head? Where’s your nose? Where’s your leg? That sort of thing. Ask him “Where’s your leg?” and he’ll point to his calf. I find it fascinating that he’s able to parse these questions via the medium of FaceTime and respond to them. He’s only been on the planet for 370 days and he’s completely at ease with video calling.

Sometimes when I’m doing a lot of work late, my wife will FaceTime me and I’ll say goodnight to Archie. This evening I was half way across Richmond having picked up something to eat when I got the missed call. Since FaceTime only works on WiFi, if somebody tries calling you when you’re not on WiFi, you just get a missed FaceTime notification.

I hurried to McDonalds. I knew that I didn’t have time to walk back to the apartment. He’d be in bed by then. I didn’t have my MiFi unit with me either (that, by the way, is a convenient way of short-circuiting the FaceTime WiFi-only restriction — it works very well, but it’s worth watching the data usage if you’re abroad!)

So I rushed up to McDonalds and stood outside. I logged on to The Cloud WiFi (free, and it conveniently remembered me so I just had to fire up the browser and login) and boom I was online. Thank you McDonalds. I do patronised the place now and again (for a diet coke, I should point out) on a regular basis just because of this super-convenient functionality.

Standing outside, I flicked up FaceTime and called my wife. I also stuck in my headphones — I’d remembered them luckily. A few moments later I was staring at Archie in his pyjamas. Genius. Absolutely fantastic.

We had a quick chat. He gave me an unprompted wave when I said ‘bye-bye’ that had me shouting GOOD BOY GOOD BOY WELL DONE at passers-by. I didn’t get that many strange looks.

All the time I was thinking, “Thank you Apple” — and I was also thinking, “Thank you McDonalds” too. And, also, thanks The Cloud.

However, there’s a problem.

A critical issue.

And Apple, I have to tell you, I really need your help.

Are you reading Steve? Help a guy out.

There are, I’m sure, a great many parents that are currently experiencing this problem and it’s beginning to seriously annoy me and my wife.

It’s quite simple: There’s no lock function with FaceTime.

At precisely 1-year old (on his birthday) Archie finally ‘got’ the concept of pressing stuff with one index finger. I spent a good five minutes demonstrating it to him. He wasn’t interested that much until I demonstrated that this one-index-finger approach made stuff light-up on an iPhone. So unfortunately at every single opportunity, Archie will now press the home button. It’s a virtual guarantee if the device screen is off. He’ll still press it during FaceTime calls. That is slightly annoying because it causes the screen to pause and my wife has to reach and fix it.

I suppose it’s my own fault for labouring the index-finger thing, but I doubt Archie is alone in enjoying the functionality. It’s quite difficult to hold the iPhone far enough away from him so he can’t press it. And if you do hold it away, that winds him up. If the iPhone was inert, then he’d soon forget it.

The bigger issue, though, is the bright ‘END’ virtual button just above the physical home button. Archie used to miss the home button and press that. Now I think he really quite enjoys tapping on it. Which, of course, ends the call immediately.

So I need to re-dial. It’s ok if it happens once or twice. But across 20 minutes this morning, I re-dialled at least once a minute.

Therefore Apple, how about some kind of child-lock for FaceTime?

I’m not sure if the net result would be to seriously annoy Archie. I don’t mind him shuffling about holding the phone whilst my wife and I are having a conversation. There’s something rather hilarious about seeing him prodding and grinning from the point of view of the iPhone on the floor. The issue is when he disconnects the call.

I didn’t see anything about this in the iOS announcements last week. I’m hopeful Apple will add some kind of lock-screen functionality to another version at some point.

Meanwhile, does anyone else have a solution? Has anyone else experienced this issue?

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

15 replies on “Help Apple: I need a child lock for FaceTime!”

With my iPhone, I hold my hand over the bottom portion of the screen so that little fingers can’t end calls. Bit of a pain though.

Alternatively, go go SuperFaceTime! Mirror an iPad 2 (or jailbroken iPad 1 or iPhone with DisplayOut) to a TV, and move it out of reach.

Have you tried turning Archie’s iPhone upside down? The video will still come out the right way for you but the home and end call buttons will be in an unexpected place. It might confuse him for a few calls — and then you could turn it the other way again… 🙂

Now then, that is a very good idea Adam. I am going to try that out. Does
the ‘end call’ button go to the top of the screen when you turn the phone
upside down? (or rather, when my wife does)

I agree 100%. It seems like it would be such a simple thing. I would even pay for it.

YES!! Same here– My daughter loves pressing the home button as well as the End Call.  Definitely need a lock here.

I am overseas with the military and have the same problem. Are you listening Apple? They could “easily” develop within a Facetime update where you press a certain sequence on the screen and it will lock.

I found your post while looking for this very feature. Turning the phone upside down worked for a little while. So desperately need this feature.

Update to iOS 6 and you get Guided Access and you won’t need wifi to FaceTime. (Requires iPhone 4S and up for 3G and 4G FaceTime)

Came to this post specifically looking for this fix! Guided access keeps them from being able to “pause” the video but they can still end the call as it does not cut off the “end” button. My niece loves to hit the home button, but when it doesn’t work b/c of GA, she will hit anything she can.

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