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Former lead Apple engineer Justin Santamaria talks iMessage, FaceTime & more on the AppleInsider podcast

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On this special episode of the AppleInsider podcast, we interview former Apple lead engineer, Justin Santamaria, who worked at Apple for almost a decade and was responsible for the launch and development of iMessage and FaceTime.

When Steve Jobs announced the iPhone 4 in June 2010, the two headlining features were a Retina screen and front-facing camera. In the previous 11 months, Apple's managing engineer over communication services, Justin Santamaria, led the team responsible for creating FaceTime.

We discuss the behind-the-scenes development of FaceTime and the internal reaction to Steve Jobs announcing it would be an open standard at WWDC. Then, just one year later, Justin and his team launched iMessage with iOS 5. He describes the development process of Apple's propriety messaging service and shares his thoughts on the current RCS vs. iMessage debate.

After leaving Apple, Justin co-founded the digital coaching service, Future. Future centers around 1-to-1 communication between coaching and users, creating a highly personalized and directed fitness program. You can learn more about Future at: tryfuture.com.

Interview with Justin Santamaria transcript

Stephen Robles

Welcome to the AppleInsider podcast. This is your host, Stephen Robles. And today we have a special interview episode with guest Justin Santamaria. He actually worked on the teams at Apple that was over FaceTime and iMessage. We're going to talk about that.

He also worked at Airbnb and now has co-founded a new company called Future that's really revolutionizing digital fitness. We'll get to that in a bit. Justin, thanks so much for joining us today.

Justin Santamaria

It's a pleasure, Stephen, longtime reader. It's cool to be on the podcast.

Stephen Robles

Wonderful. So you worked at Apple, how long did you work at Apple and I mentioned you worked on FaceTime and iMessage. But what was kind of your path as you were there at the company?

Justin Santamaria

Yeah, great question. I joined the company in 2003. And I was there for 10 years, or right under 10 years. They asked did I get my 10 year plaque? I was like, no, I did not get my 10 year plaque.

Nine and a half, right there. I got my five year. But yes, I started at Apple in 2003. My first project was iTunes for Windows, and I was there for the launch of that product. So that's to think, 2003 you're launching iTunes for Windows, 2007 you're launching iPhone. You're like wow, that was a jump.

Stephen Robles

Yes, four years to go from iTunes on Windows to iPhone, my goodness. So you worked on iMessage and FaceTime. FaceTime launched in 2010 with iOS 4, then iMessage in 2011, one year later iOS 5. What was your responsibilities in relation to FaceTime and iMessage during that time?

Justin Santamaria

So during that time, I was managing the communications applications group. So anything on the client or on the device on iPhone, that app or that app experience I was responsible for delivering on and as part of that working with our backend and server teams to actually define, "what is this service?" And, "how are we going to do it?"

Apple, at least at the time didn't have any product managers kind of setting requirements. So it's up to actual engineering managers to figure out okay, if we're going to deliver this product, "What features does it have? And how do we make that work?" So part of the teams for both of that and responsible for the app side for both of those projects.

Stephen Robles

Fascinating. So definitely want to get to iMessage in-depth in a moment. FaceTime came out first, came out with the iPhone 4, that was actually my very first iPhone, was the iPhone 4. The first one with the front-facing camera and FaceTime, obviously, was the big feature for that.

I want to ask about Steve Jobs talking about FaceTime being open source at the announcement. So before that, a lot of the times from the outside, we don't know how long Apple is working on a new feature or service or app. So you being on those teams, can you recall when FaceTime kind of began production, or when you guys actually started developing it before the 2010 launch date?

Justin Santamaria

I sure can, because at that point, we're doing our fourth version of iOS. And at that time, you're at a breakneck pace in terms of developing software. And so basically, the way Apple and especially iOS software, this schedule works is it's backed up against a hardware schedule.

Like there's new phones coming from China, factories getting set up, it needs software. And so therefore, this is the date, and that date did not move.

Stephen Robles

And that's the headlining feature of the iPhone 4 was the front facing camera and the retina screen.

Justin Santamaria

And that's right. And so for that, it was coming right off of 3, so that just you know, the next week you're like, okay, the 4 is gonna have a camera in it. You know, as far as hardware development, that's a much longer process. But at the time, the team was so small, you couldn't develop the software for the phone two out at the same time you're trying to develop for the very next version.

So we got started right after, I guess that was the 3GS launch, working on what would become FaceTime, knowing hey, there's going to be a front facing camera, clearly, we're going to do you know, FaceTime, because what else do you do with a front facing camera?

It's funny to think that selfie wasn't a coined term or that would be enough for a front facing camera to have a camera that you could take a picture of yourself, right? We needed more, it was very clear that this was not a feature that we could slip, because you're right, it was a marquee thing. It had to happen.

There was no choice. And so you just work back, you're like, okay, we've got, you know, 11 months. Let's get started.

Stephen Robles

Right. And that's one of those features that is not announced like the developers conference, because it's directly related to the hardware of the phone. So Apple is not going to say, hey, we have FaceTime coming in our unreleased phone that we're not going to tell you about.

So you had a solid year from 3GS launch, or 11 months at least, until the iPhone four was announced. And I still remember that keynote, Steve Jobs talking about FaceTime being a big deal. And one of the most hilarious lines was Steve Jobs saying that we're going to make this open source so you'll be able to get FaceTime on devices besides the iPhone.

And now fast forward 12 years, and we've just now with iOS 15, kind of have FaceTime if you send a link to an Android or Windows user, but we definitely do not have FaceTime apps for those platforms. So tell me when that happened. Did any of you guys have an idea that he was about to say it? And what was the reaction after it happened?

Justin Santamaria

Stephen, that's so funny, because I do remember that.

Stephen Robles

It was a fall iPhone launch.

Justin Santamaria

It was the fall announcement. That's right. Yeah, that fall announcement was the most stressful experience of my entire life. If you recall, they had to tell everyone to turn off their hotspots because we were going to do the FaceTime demo at the end. And the phones on the stage, were using the Wi Fi that, you know, it was using and all the press was using Wi Fi.

So there was so much interference. We actually had in person events. Yeah, this is back in the day. Can you imagine that people flew out and all got in a room to see something. It's 2010. And you know, hotspots are a thing. So you know, at this point press is filing live reports and live blogging and all these things. And so everyone has their own hotspots and the Wi Fi spectrums just holds there.

And if you remember, he's demoing retina with The New York Times and The New York Times page doesn't load. And I know what the end of the demo is. I'm like, The New York Times can't load. I remember I was in the second row of that thing and we had been rehearsing for four days, five days before, in Moscone Center, going through it, going through it, and working with the person setting up Wi Fi, and he's got a meter there.

And you know, it's got the, you know, green, yellow, red type thing. And it's white. It's a color that wasn't even there showing interference. Yeah. And so, you know, they turn off the phones, and we're able to get a demo through, but I was like, oh man, this was not expected at all.

Steve Jobs audio clip

We figured out why my demo crashed. Because there are 570 Wi Fi base stations operating in this room. So all you bloggers need to turn off your base stations, turn off your Wi Fi, every notebook I'd like them to put put them down on the floor. And all of you look around, I'd like you to police each other.

Justin Santamaria

As far as the open slide, I remember, I think that got added very late in the game. It was definitely an 11th hour oh, I know. So I knew it was coming. But I didn't know what it was. And I don't think anyone else did either.

Steve Jobs audio clip

We're gonna take it all the way. We're going to the standards bodies starting tomorrow. And we're gonna make FaceTime an open industry standard.

Stephen Robles

So after the event, and that was announced, I don't think Apple ever really mentioned it again, it just kind of quietly dissipated into the ether. What was the behind the scenes talk? Was there ever efforts to make it open source or release it to other platforms? Or was it just like, JK, we're not doing this actually.

Justin Santamaria

It was a long time ago. I know there were efforts, it was actually handled by a different group, believe it or not, so I was not responsible for delivering that.

And I'm not too sure where that had landed. You know, it's one of those things where I think it's easy to say and hard to put into practice. But I can't speak for you know, I wasn't responsible for the actual open part of that project. But yeah, was it a project? Yes, it was.

Stephen Robles

Well, then, one year later, in 2011, I messaged launches with the iPhone 4s, Apple's messaging service to compete with at that time BlackBerry Messenger and certain other messaging services.

What was your role specifically in the iMessage Development? Was it the app side service side? Or both?

Justin Santamaria

It was both I was responsible for the app side directly and for launching as a whole and was working very closely to define that service side. And what would it entail?

And how would it look and working with our design team as well as our back end team, our server team, as well as the the app team that that I was directly responsible for, to develop iMessage off the heels of FaceTime.

Stephen Robles

We'll get to the modern conversation, or at least it's today's talk about iMessage and RCS and all that. But in that initial development stages, now we kind of talk about the colors and how the green bubbles almost have this averse emotion when people see the green as opposed to the blue.

Do you have any recollection of what the color choice process was like? Was there any kind of testing of different colors? Were you responsible in any of those talks?

Justin Santamaria

If you recall, the SMS

Stephen Robles

It was already green as the Messages app which is always green

Justin Santamaria

Yeah, like Messages app. It was called the SMS app. It was green had a green icon. In fact, the messages up today if you know I'm not going crazy still has a green icon. Oh, still, yes. Still green. There was never any pejorative green discussion.

Right, like that's the in fact, that was the default color. And if you recall, prior to iMessage, the send button was blue, the bubbles were all green. And as a part of building the client side platform, you know, I think the big thing, it's funny because we thought it reduces to blue bubbles and green bubbles, but I think the real innovation, or the real Kickstarter of this is iMessage sits in the same app as SMS.

And you as a user don't necessarily, I think that, you know, the theory is the user shouldn't have to think about the technology behind sending a message. You open your app, I want to talk to my wife, or I want to talk to my friend, and it's not like, well, what should I choose, I just open this, and I'll get the best experience I can for getting this message from point A to point B.

And I think that kind of triggers this whole okay, so how do I know I'm getting the best experience? And and really, you could argue a user doesn't even necessarily need to know that. But if developer does, if you're if you're building and testing the app, you need to know did that send us an iMessage? Or did that send us a text message? Or what should I expect? Should I expect a delivery receipt here? Should I expect a read receipt? And then that does end up caring to the users?

Like how do you set the expectation that the thing you sent will be received in the way you're intending. And so that kind of carried through and it was really more of an informational detail of you're going to get an enhanced experience because the bubble is blue, rather than the base level experience, because the bubble is green. And what that did is gave us a lot more ability to have these two technologies coexist in the same app.

Stephen Robles

That's what made it so powerful was that the users really didn't change their procedures at all. That's the same app that they were using for SMS texts for the three to four years prior.

Now, they use the same app in the same way. But they automatically get an upgraded experience if they're talking to another iPhone user, which that's again, that integration, I think, made it such a powerful feature.

Also, just a side note, I'm really glad to hear you say read receipts, because I hear people say read receipts, like I don't know if that's right. So from the inside, can you tell us officially did you guys call them read receipts?

Justin Santamaria

I can't speak for that. But I say read receipts.

Stephen Robles

Because it means I read the message.

Justin Santamaria

I don't know if I want to dip my toe there. But I suppose I say read receipts since you caught it in my subconscious.

Stephen Robles

Well, I agree with it. That's what I say as well. Now, at the time when I message came out in 2011, and in the few years after, I guess you were there about another year and a half or two years after iMessage launched?

Were there any conversations at the time, about iMessage being launched for other platforms like Android, whether it was with the development team or with VPs? Or even, you know, whoever else was up the chain? Was there any talk about that at the time?

Justin Santamaria

I recall having having this be an open question like should this be on other platforms all the way from, you know, is this should this be a federated system should should rebuild an Apple Android iMessage app is definitely something you know, that's part of the the conversation, I don't think any, I don't think any technology company like cuts off any sort of thinking now, you know, you've met, you know, privately, you figure out what your message is, you go forward with it.

But like, you know, you try to figure out where this is going to go. And when I was there, it was very clear to me that we wanted to innovate on the iOS platform, the team still was very small. So there was also just kind of a, we're not going to we're not going to build this right now. Whether or not strategically it makes sense or not, I think iPhone and iMessage was still kind of in its infancy to be like, well, how much do we expand this?

Because it's definitely you know, Apple traditionally has been we sell hardware, let's build software for hardware, and not hey, let's build ecosystems for communication. And so that was kind of always the default mindset when, when, when I was there, and I think there's this interesting thing, and it's actually because of FaceTime that iMessage uses was a service that used your phone number as your as your identifier, you didn't pick a screen name, right.

And it uses the same service registration service that FaceTime used and so we got to piggyback off of that. And so there's also this question that kind of starts to come up, like who owns the phone number? And how do you know that's giving you the right signal on what the phone number is?

And I think that just that one question, you go okay, this is like not just a quick port, we have to actually really understand how these things can work. You didn't priorities happen and you got to ship the next iPhone and you know, that would never be a hey, engineers on the ground wrote this thing. Let's ship it. It's like a very strategic question that needs to be answered by the powers that be?

Stephen Robles

Well, I also think, yes, it started with your phone number via carrier. And this will play into the RCS conversation also. But now when you have an iMessage attached to your iCloud account, it's also attached to your email address like your iCloud email address.

And for like my kids who use iMessage all the time, they don't have a phone yet, so they don't have a phone number. So nothing is attached to a carrier, their iMessage experience is strictly relegated to their iCloud email address. And it's still the same product, they still message and have all the same features as iMessage elsewhere.

And I think that's a major advantage that iMessage has in compared to something like RCS or even WhatsApp that really tries to make your messaging account attached to your phone number, which in the future could change, I think there's a higher likelihood that someone's phone number might change. Maybe they move even move to a different country or just a different state here in America as opposed to your iCloud email, which has the potential to be the same for your entire life.

And I would prefer whatever identity the people closest to me message me with is that identity instead of a phone number that is beholden to a carrier that I may lose one day, if I go to a different carrier for that my next question to you then is now to the modern conversation of RCS vers iMessage. You know, there's pressure on Apple to either adopt RCS into the Messages app or open up iMessage to other platforms, I think the latter is much less likely.

How do you feel now kind of being out not working for Apple for a number of years, but you're still an entrepreneur still in the technology space? Well, what are your feelings on that closed ecosystem versus RCS? And what you think Apple should do here?

Justin Santamaria

Yeah, great question, Stephen. And it's interesting, just to piggyback off that, before I go into this, which is, you know, the whole iCloud email as an addressable unit that was very early in our system. And that was really to support iPod Touch Back in the day and iPad because those didn't necessarily have cellular service or phone numbers for that matter.

And so we wanted this to support, you know, the Apple ecosystem. And it's interesting how that's carried over into, you know, other just basic use cases and is still very applicable today. I had a conversation about RCS in like 2011 with phone carriers, and so it's not like RCS is a new thing.

Right, in any way. And it's something that is only now coming up. I think, because it's receiving adoption, I think when you say pressure, I think there's, you know, a very specific set of company that is doing that. And I think there's a bigger question here. And that is around ability to deliver.

And when you create interoperability across even platforms, or companies or networks or systems, you essentially put a stake in the ground and say, this is kind of the base experience. And you kind of agree to innovate in a way that will always support the base experience. And this is kind of something that RCS is an evolution that comes from the same, you know, place that SMS and MMS came from, which is, you know, classic cellular technology.

But the reason why iMessage was developed was because SMS and MMS are these very base level basic experiences, because it needed to work for, you know, every phone that supported this, and you end up having to kind of understand that there's a reason why when you send a message that's not over iMessage it's a postage stamp.

And why you can't send you basically can't send a video over MMS. That's not to say that you shouldn't interoperate, you could say, hey, SMS, you know, how has that evolved? Has everything moved past that? And is there a new kind of base standard to support across platforms? I haven't looked at the RCS doc in years. So I couldn't say.

Stephen Robles

Well, and let me ask you this, because I have made the argument that Apple is not going to adopt a technology that does not work as people would expect it to yet. And if you look at RCS right now, Verizon is supporting RCS they are calling it their advanced messaging features.

But it does not work cross carrier yet. Same with AT&T. So if Apple even adopted RCS right now, and said you can use RCS and the Messages app, its built in. Me as an AT&T user could actually not use advanced messaging features by RCS with Verizon user because the carriers still don't support that interoperability.

And I feel like Apple is not going to adopt something where customers are going to be like, why isn't messaging working with my Android friends as I thought it would, but when it's still on the carriers to get their act together? I mean, does that kind of jive with your history with Apple?

Justin Santamaria

I mean, let me put it differently because I think it's totally at the crux is you know, Apple, and to some extent other technology companies, are trying to solve problems for people, they're not trying to figure out how to how to adopt technology for the sake of adopting it.

For the most part, I think when you're trying to solve the problem for us, you don't do this now, is that narrative violated, usually, of course, but at the base level, that's, I believe, at least when I was at Apple success begat success in the sense that if you were successful with your users, they whip up your products and you could do more. Yeah.

And here is a perfect example of when's the last time I had to worry about what carrier you were on and what carrier I was on? That's kind of a solved problem. Why would we reintroduce that when it comes to this stuff?

In fact, there's other if you really need true ubiquity, you go use WhatsApp, you know, because you have international friends and family. And that's a multi platform thing. And no, that's not Apple. That's not iMessage. No, but do they have an app on every device in most countries? Yes. And you can go use that, if that fits you what your needs are?

And, so it goes back to okay, what's the base level universal experience. And in the sense, RCS is not the base level. And in fact, it's not even close to being the base level, because SMS and MMS work effectively everywhere. And then what's on top of that, actually, users do have choices. But also, like you said, like why now do I need to worry about that? Why would I adopt that?

Stephen Robles

Right. Mainly just because Google's like vice president is tweeting about it. That's really the only reason.

Justin Santamaria

Yeah. And the interesting thing about about Google is they've had Google Hangout, you know, and they essentially abandoned it.

Stephen Robles

They had Allo, Google Hangouts, Google Wave, "G Chat"

Justin Santamaria

And, pick your thing. And and I think there was the you know, they have their reasons, right? The proposed solution doesn't even jive with the complaint in today's world.

And maybe if that changed, then there could be something there. But as far as right now, I don't I don't I don't see that happening. Yeah.

Stephen Robles

Well, I want to talk about your company future. But real quick, before we get to that you were working at Apple when Steve Jobs passed? Yes, in 2011.

I still remember that Wednesday evening, when I saw the news. And it was sad. Even for someone who had never worked for Apple or had any communication with Steve Jobs. It was still emotional for me. What was it like for you and internally during that time, and during that transition?

Justin Santamaria

You know, there are things in your career that you never forget. And that's certainly one of those days, I was sitting in my office and I'll to infinite loop campus, a new campus, obviously, was still Yeah, it was in the planning stages. And I come out of my office. And it's funny, because I think it's like, I load CNN on on my computer like that.

And I see the headline, and, you know, Steve, and you know, you nobody's been sick. And you know, he had resigned and you knew these things, but you just didn't know. And I remember coming out and seeing my team and it was very somber. Yeah, you do what's comfortable, right? So we sat around and talked, and we ended up going to BJ's, which is the restaurant and bar that's right next to Apple campus. And we kind of sat and talked and told stories, our Steve demos, stories, and our Steve kind of just, you know, you reminisce and you tell stories, and it's sad.

And you know, when no one on my team was like, Hey, I was just so buddy, buddy with Steve or anything like that. Yeah. But we all had interacted with him at some level or another. And at some in a deeper way, he was the guiding force of the company at that time, and you trusted decision making, because you knew he was at the home.

And many of us, myself included, join the company, because we all saw something very special in the leader of that company. And that leader had left us I remember, I at the time, my girlfriend now wife at the time, drove home. And we lived in San Francisco and worked in Cupertino.

I just remember getting about halfway home and just losing it, you know, just bawling for, for a guy who probably didn't know my name, I mean, we work together about you know, on stuff, but he did that with hundreds of people, and just just feeling a real, real loss. A

nd I think over the past years, having him be part of my story about the products that I built and worked on and demos that I gave to him and feedback I got from him. You know, I know it was special then but only his time passed. And I realized like how truly unique that was, and it was something that you know, I'm just so thankful to have had direct exposure to to the guy.

Stephen Robles

So did you actually have some situation where you actually pitch something to him during your tenure at Apple or

Justin Santamaria

Oh, all the time because of sponsible for FaceTime, and I met Jim and the client experience I was always you know, every Monday afternoon, you know, during development you're you're on a cycle where you're constantly giving demos and especially for like FaceTime, you know, someone needs to be on the other side of that call. And I would say, you know, a chunk of that time I was on the call. So yeah, definitely.

Stephen Robles

There's tons of stories, both in his biographies. And in the creative selection book of kind of his notorious quick decision making or just very much like this, or this, what do you think, giving it to the developer, whoever is working and just going with it?

Did you ever have that kind of experience? Where we're just a very like, quick like, yep, that's the one or absolutely not that?

Justin Santamaria

Oh, absolutely. All the time. And in fact, it was such a known style of Steve's that I would often tell my team, hey, if you don't like the one he picked, it's because you gave him that option. Like don't give him that option.

Like, that's our you know, because it's like, oh, Steve decides everything. It's like, don't But Steve decides from what we show it right? And so if we show him two crappy things, and or three crappy things, and he picks a crappy thing, well, whose fault is that?

And then oftentimes, he would push harder eat, like, I picked zero of the three. And that was always the most frustrating. Really, wow, I really thought we were on to something here. And we were super off track. The other thing I would say about Steve is he wasn't afraid to change his mind.

And I think that's something that that's a leadership quality, that that I try to emulate even even more now, which is like when you have new data, or you've thought about it, and you've changed your mind, just express that. And don't make excuses for that, if it's gonna be better for the product and find better to know now than later.

Yeah, as a developer, as an engineer, and as a manager, like that wasn't always as appreciated in the moment. But I think looking back, it was something that was pretty interesting to see that he would, he could pick a one day be the next day and to be back on a the day after.

But oftentimes, it's like that ability to really kind of ruminate in what you might be able to do in the possibility that you end up on the right answer.

Stephen Robles

Right. That's fascinating. Well, after your time, at Apple, you kind of went through Airbnb, working on some of their platforms. And now you've co founded a company called Future really working in the digital fitness space, which I think is fascinating, because Apple has just gotten into this space as well, with fitness plus, but tell me a little bit about what future is doing in the area of fitness.

Justin Santamaria

I'm so excited to talk about Future because it's it's not an obvious next step for me, on the face of things, but future is really about connecting people with other people and helping them achieve their goals. It's really, it's this communication piece that I worked on in Apple and saying, if you had you know, you use FaceTime and iMessage talk to your friends and family.

But these days, if you can have someone in your life who is helping you with things that you need help with and and fitness is our first kind of subject matter and you have an expert on the other side who's there to plug into your life, that that's a very powerful thing. What we do is we connect people with fitness professionals, personal trainers, and performance coaches via our messaging service actually.

Stephen Robles

Which you know, something about building a messaging service.

Justin Santamaria

Yes, which I know some of you are building about and really establish a really strong personal connection or relationship and and deliver on giving you highly customized plans and really try and meet you where you're at on your fitness journey or your health journey adjust for that. And one of the things we noticed, especially with Apple Watches, like 100 million Apple watches out there that all are giving great data about our health and about you know, our steps or activity in these things.

And and what all that data has done is it forces us to kind of Marshal ourselves and develop an understanding of what's good and what's bad. And what we do is we take that and with our service, you get a real coach who's an expert who knows about this stuff, and and takes watch data, your workout data and like builds a plan for you and around you. And it is just a very highly customized workout and fitness experience.

And it's something that we just believe that at the end of the day, people move people and the technology can help with that. And so we're putting the coach at the center of this experience for our members. And so it's this help meet communication story here.

Stephen Robles

That's awesome. Because you know, it's interesting, especially since the pandemic, we've seen other areas, other industries move to this online and virtual connection point, you know, I think about better help, which have sponsored this podcast a while ago, you know, that really became elevated once it was like everyone has to stay home.

But we still need mental health help. That's right. And so you know, for services like that coming out. First of all, the app is beautifully designed. I'm looking at it right now. It's great ratings, like 4.9 stars.

What exactly once you get matched with a coach, is it just messaging? Is there any kind of video component? And you know, is there any kind of like, FaceTime for lack of a better word, communication with your coach?

Justin Santamaria

Great question, Steve. After you match with your coach, you actually get on a FaceTime call with him. We actually use FaceTime and they get to know you and you get to see this is a real human this is real expert.

This is a person who's gonna know my name and understand me better and understand whether it's like Hey, I already work out the gym four days a week, and I've been doing the same routine, and I need to unlock kind of the next stage of my fitness, or, Hey, I'm just getting off the couch, I find my life to be super chaotic.

I've got kids, I've got a family, I've got all this stuff. And I just, I have a hard time finding time for this. And I know it's good for me, I just this isn't my natural hobby. Our coaches work around that. And they for the first time, we're not saying hey, here's some content, do it. And if you don't, it's your problem, we say, let's understand your situation and figure out how to unlock success with you. And what we provide is a workout experience.

And so we have exercises and all that pre recorded so you can look at video on your iPhone, and we actually have an Apple Watch app, you can kind of you can track everything and see what's coming up next, and all this stuff. So there's this whole workout experience. But also, if you'd like to run or you do yoga, or you know, let's say you even go to classes. Now now that things are opening up, we're here for the entire experience where your hub for all your fitness and health needs.

So we'll just add that in. And it's trying to figure out what what's gonna get you and keep you successful and have you you know, if you could have a person for this journey, what would you want that person to do is kind of what you you could ask yourself. And it turns out that this is something that we see great success in, as you see with the reviews.

And we have a very high success rate. Because we're not just kind of automating this, we're realizing that there's a real connection that gets developed a real relationship. And now that I think what the pandemic has shown us is you don't need to just rely on just who are the people down the street that you can go in and make an appointment with, or who's been offered at your gym, but you can get really, really good expertise through digital means.

And so our coaches are all over the country serving our members who are all over the country virtually. And that's something that I think isn't just a trend for fitness, but a trend for a lot of services moving into the future. And what we've done is we've really built a service around that relationship and that connection, and that understanding that fitness is a highly personalized experience. And there's nothing more personal than having someone who's helping direct that with you.

Stephen Robles

And I love that initial kind of setup in the app process. It really asked a lot of questions on what kind of coach you want, even up to the slider where you can say, I want a coach that's super intense, or not intense at all, gives me a little bit peace of mind to know like, this is the temperament of the person that's going to be coaching me over the next however long, hopefully a long time.

But how much contact do the coaches and people using the app typically have? I mean, is this you know, daily, multiple times a day? And what are those conversations typically look like?

Justin Santamaria

That's a great question, Stephen. We built Future to be more than just about let's just talk about your workouts, your reps or sets, let's go this is about much more than that. And so on average, our coaches are having conversations every day with their members. And some you know, you don't want that level of engagement.

You don't, you don't have to, but they exchange on average, you know, four messages a day with clients back and forth, you know, 1500 messages a year. And that's when you think about it, when you see your doctor, if you see I don't see a doctor regularly I should.

But you you see your doctor twice a year, maybe. And so let's have someone in your life who's in it, who's there. And those messages, you know, they start out talking about your workouts and your you know, and how they're going and what your goals are, and these sorts of things, or even trying to figure out what your goal should be.

Maybe you come in, you're like, I know, I need to do this, but I haven't had any time for this. And you know, I don't think about this, you know, your coach is there to help you think about that. They're your advocate, what we see is that people start to talk about much more than their fitness they talk about, you know, there's stress or how they're sleeping or how they're eating, and your coach can take that into consideration, and really tried to build a plan and give you advice that really puts you at the center of this, but you're not just trying to figure that out on your own, you really do have a thought partner and how to kind of live a healthier life.

And it's really pointing at that journey, that it's not about just what the next goal is, but like how do you just make decisions every day? And how do you have someone there helping you do that along the way?

Stephen Robles

Yeah. And I also love how much you integrate the Apple Watch, you even have an option to borrow an Apple Watch for the time while you're using the service, right? And it's incredible. My wife actually saw a cardiologist the other day, and they said, hey, you know, if you ever feel a certain way, take the ECG on your Apple Watch and send it to me that data is great, you know, and we find it reliable.

And just that ability to have so much data about your health that's being tracked all the time that you can share with someone to then guide you in what to do next. How does that work with your coaches? What what kind of data do they look for from your clients, Apple watches and then what do they do with that?

Justin Santamaria

That's a great question, Stephen. And it is that it's the closing of the loop of this type of data and giving it to an expert make it actionable. An example I have to say is if you get your 5,000 steps a day, so now what like, should I do? 6,000? Does that materially change anything about me, I don't know, like, you know, well, there's people who actually have degrees in this stuff that know exactly, you know what that means and what you should do with that.

And so for our coaches, looking at your heart rate, and how that does during workouts, and how it changes based off the exercises, looking at things like your runs, and your pacing, and all these sorts of things are helpful to the coach in understanding that and we plan to integrate sleep and all these things.

So if you get a bad night's sleep, your coach and say, You know what you're supposed to do a hard workout today, and all that background, do some stretching, you're going to do some, you know, breathing exercises, and we'll get back into it tomorrow. Like, that's the level of expertise and customization we offer.

Stephen Robles

That's so good. Because, you know, my wife does a video series of workouts on our Apple TV. And you know, she tries to follow the 100 days, and she likes to go in order. And you know, not miss a day. But there are some times where she didn't have a good night's rest, or it's just a really long day, the day before and she sees that there's like, you know, a 45 minute high intensity workout on the schedule for that day. And then you know, it's a real struggle of like, do I push myself to do this?

And then might I just take myself out for the rest of the day? Or do I do something different and feel like I messed up, I feel like I missed a day. And to have someone like a coach to say, I see that you didn't sleep well, you can take it easy today. And that's actually best for your health. Just having that little bit of peace of mind, I think would be a huge deal for some people.

Justin Santamaria

And Stephen, that's exactly it is we provide people the infrastructure they need to succeed. So many people hit that point where they're like, Oh, I'm off track, or Oh, I missed that one. Or oh, I don't feel it today. And then they don't come back.

And that's not because that person is lazy. And it's not because that person isn't motivated. And it's not any of that. It's just an I put myself in that bucket, we need support. And we need the Okay. Okay, so what is what are the implications of that? Should I go back and do that workout? Should I do a light version of that workout? Does it count does it not?

To have someone's like, hey, that's parts on me, you just tell me when you can show up and what you can give. And we'll figure out the rest. That's like a totally different way about feeling and thinking about fitness.

Traditionally, we've thought about it in terms of here's the plan, if you follow it, you're good. And if you're not, that's kind of on you, future takes just a different approach. It's very much like, let's figure out how to make this work. If that's what you have today. That's what you have. And if it's not in the cards today, let's figure out how to make it work for tomorrow.

And to give that space of understanding that we're human things are happening all the time your kid gets sick, you have to work late or you slept like garbage the night before. And it's all recognizing the humanity of life and putting that in a service and saying, You don't need to figure this out all by yourself, that gets to the heart of why future is so successful.

Stephen Robles

Very cool. So if someone wants to try a Future, sign up for the service and give it a shot, where can they go to find it?

Justin Santamaria

They can go to tryfuture.com

Stephen Robles

A good URL. Very cool. Yeah.

Justin Santamaria

Thank you. Yeah, it is. I mean, we really try to develop user experience that is not about the technology. It's not about the Apple Watch. It's really about getting you signed up getting you going and getting you on your way.

And the interesting part about the company is all of the complicated aspects are behind the scenes. And that's something that I think is directly from my experiences at Apple that we built it that way.

Stephen Robles

Yeah. And I have to say, again, now I'm looking at the website, I was on the app before you guys have beautiful design everywhere. And I don't know, I'm sure you're like this. But when I see something that's kind of not designed, well, I immediately, I'm averse to it. I don't want to use it. And you guys kill it.

And I imagine that's part of your background, how much do you have in as far as overseeing like, design work? Are you kind of deep into that? Do you really get involved with that? Or do you have someone that really handles that well?

Justin Santamaria

I'm responsible for design. Yeah, yeah, I'm not the designer. That's not my trade show. But definitely, I hire our designers. And they report to me, directly, I get it. But that's the thing is like future is about caring about the details and about getting the things right, because what we are doing is we're trying to be an advocate in your life.

And so those details matter. And that's also why I think the you know, natural progression from Apple to something like this in a space that I think is often really very much about a certain type of attitude, you know, to bring this considered approach is something I'm just ecstatic to be working on.

Stephen Robles

Very cool. We'll put links to the service and the app in the show notes if listeners want to click that. This has been a pleasure, Justin, before we go, if you would oblige.

I would love to know if you have one Steve Jobs story that really just stands out that you remember either an interaction or a feature thing or something that you could do that really just sticks in your mind. It was kind of that I don't know, just one of those interactions with Steve Jobs.

Justin Santamaria

I can do that. It's not an exclusive interaction. I've told the story before but I think it's definitely one worth telling because this is a very personal interaction. It was a Friday afternoon, and I'm sitting in my office. And at this point, I'm a manager. I'm not developing code. I'm like, you know, I'm a professional meeting meeting guy.

And, you know, I'm a metalworker, I like to say, and my VP and our program manager, Kim, VP, Henri, come into my office and go, Steve wants to see FaceTime. I wasn't called FaceTime at the time. That's what I'll say. And I go, Sure, great, you know, because it's Friday, and demos are Monday afternoon, like should be fine. No problem. Well, we'll get something ready. Friends might ruins our weekend, but you know what it is what it is? And they're like, no, no, he wants to see it today. And you know, it's like, 10:30. It's like, okay, well, I'll get it set up over lunch, you know, one o'clock work.

And he's like, No, he's walking over from aisle one right now. Like, oh, what, he's walking over right now. And I mean, that's like four minutes notice, right? Oh, no. Oh, no. And so I go to engineers office, his name is Jeremy. And, Jeremy, you have two phones that work? I think these do, they don't really connect that.

But like, once there if you can get them like connecting, well, what was happening and just inside baseball, like the phone wouldn't wake from sleep. This is like early development. This is like nothing ever works when you're in development. And so like if the push got sent, but the phone wouldn't wake up for the push. So you couldn't connect the FaceTime call. And so he's like, yeah, they don't wake up.

So like, you've got to like, manually get the call to work. You're like, okay, I can do that. So I literally have these two phones. And I mean, if you can imagine, like when you give a job when you give a demo to Steve, or is it just the CEO of a large multinational corporation?

You don't you have the nicest devices, they're fully charged. They've been spit shined, you know, and here I have these like to like grubby things, fingerprints all over the thing.

Stephen Robles

You didn't have the Apple Polishing cloth at that time.

Justin Santamaria

Yeah, you know, that was probably deep in development years.

Stephen Robles

10 years ago.

Justin Santamaria

So I'm like, oh, you know, it's like, I'm having this thing against my shirt to try to get some of the, just like, this is such a disaster. And then sure enough, I see him turn the corner, and it's like, okay, it's showtime.

And I hand him one of the phones, and I keep the other and you know, pleasantries are exchanged. And he goes, alright, go to your office so we can do this, because you can't be in the same room, obviously, to have FaceTime calls. So I, I'm literally go on the other side of my office door, close the door, and I hold the phone up, and I start doing what I do when I test the phone, which is you're testing audio, video sync and all sorts of stuff.

So you know, and this is something I've been doing for years, because I worked on iChat before that, but we didn't get into that. And I stare at the camera and I with my left hand, I start counting, you know, counting off 123 So that he can see the voice and see my hands, you know, counted off. So you can see the synchronization, which is just a standard test read, right? He's like, what are you doing? Like, talk to me like a normal human.

Stephen Robles

That's the procedure like, yeah, hey,

Justin Santamaria

how's it going? How's your week? And what's funny, is Steve's holding the phone? And he's holding it at his chest. And looking down.

Stephen Robles

The classic grandfather. Yeah, look, yeah.

Justin Santamaria

You know, like half his faces in the bottom half of the screen type thing, as well. And, you know, he goes, I look abominable. And and, you know, it's early on in, like I mean, again, selfie is not a word yet, right?

And so it's not like, oh, Steve, you're completely holding it wrong. That's not how the kids do it. Because the kids didn't do it yet. Yeah. You know, like, you're like, I guess. I guess that's how you can hold it. That's one way to hold the phone.

Stephen Robles

So to say you're holding it wrong. Prior to the iPhone 4 antennagate?

Justin Santamaria

Yeah, yeah. Oh, geez. That was, yeah,

Stephen Robles

You hold it wrong.

Justin Santamaria

Not my department. And you know, from that, and then you know, stuff happens. And after that, there's other stuff that happens. But I just remember that and I, you know, it's a one on one with Steve completely impromptu. But what came from that. And that's funny, because that kind of sets the tone for this whole conversation is at that point, FaceTime was its own app.

And he said, I should just be able to go from phone call to video call, or it should be one click, I shouldn't have to register a new service there shouldn't it should just it should just be tied to if I know your phone number I should be able to video call you.

And that actual like, I guess you could say directive. Yeah, comes there and it completely changes what FaceTime becomes. And it actually is the thing that you know, eventually makes its way to iMessage eventually allows you to overlay iMessage On top of SMS eventually gets you blue bubbles versus green.

Stephen Robles

Wow, very cool. Well, that was a perfect bow for this conversation. Justin, thank you so much again, we'll put links to future, try future.com That'll be in the show notes. Also, Justin's Twitter and links to the future app as well. Justin, thanks again for joining us on the AppleInsider show.

Justin Santamaria

Steve. It's been a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

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