Shortly after the public release of OS X 10.9.1, Apple seeded the first developer builds of OS X 10.9.2, and developers quickly found a surprising new feature: the next update to OS X Mavericks may bring FaceTime Audio to the Mac for the first time.
First unveiled at WWDC in June 2013, FaceTime Audio is, as its name suggests, an audio-only implementation of Apple’s popular FaceTime video chat service. Currently available only for iOS 7, FaceTime Audio uses AAC-ELD, a low delay codec that still provides excellent audio quality, and is gaining traction in professional voice applications. The service is popular on iOS as it allows users to make high quality voice calls via mobile data networks, avoiding the lower quality, and often capped, mobile voice network.
With the OS X 10.9.2 beta, developers quickly revealed that FaceTime Audio was now integrated into the desktop operating system, with ties into both the FaceTime and Messages apps. Whereas FaceTime Audio on iOS offers users an alternative to mobile voice networks, FaceTime Audio for OS X will provide a direct challenge to traditional VoIP applications like Skype, promising better audio quality and more convenient integration for those already in the Apple ecosystem.
While Apple rarely removes key features after introducing them in developer builders, it’s important to note that FaceTime Audio’s inclusion at this stage of OS X 10.9.2’s development does not guarantee its appearance in the final public version. Apple’s release schedule for OS X 10.9.2 is also unknown; while OS X 10.9.1 was released to the public just over four weeks after its first developer build appeared, other updates, such as OS X 10.8.3, remained in testing for nearly six months before a public release.