Apple

Pro tip: Make crystal-clear FaceTime audio calls with iOS 7

Cell signal dead spots are everywhere, but if you've got a strong Wi-Fi signal, you can make free audio calls to any iOS or Mac user in the world with FaceTime.

FaceTime

A little-known feature with iOS 7 is the ability to place free FaceTime audio calls to any iOS or Mac user in the world. FaceTime audio is built on the same system that has made FaceTime so successful, giving users the ability to make digital calls that have crystal-clear audio over Wi-Fi or cellular. In this article, we'll show you exactly how to use this feature on iOS and Mac.

FaceTime audio provides the same great clarity, but without the video. The best part is that it uses your data plan instead of your cellular minutes (this is especially useful if you have an unlimited data plan). Like FaceTime video, you can use FaceTime audio on Wi-Fi and through participating wireless providers' networks (check with your provider to see if they support FaceTime over cellular).

Enabling FaceTime

To enable FaceTime on your device, follow the instructions below. Note that you'll need to have your Apple ID credentials handy (the same credentials used on iTunes, iCloud, iMessage, etc.).

  1. Open Settings
  2. Navigate to the FaceTime section
  3. Enable the FaceTime option, and/or sign in if you haven't already (Figure A)

Figure A

Figure A

Enabling FaceTime is an easy process --- just sign in using your existing Apple ID credentials.

This is all that you need to do in order to enable FaceTime. The rest is handled automatically. Your device will automagically get registered on the FaceTime network and will be ready to both place and receive FaceTime (audio and video) calls.

Placing a FaceTime audio call

If you've used FaceTime video calls before, then you know how easy it is to both make and receive calls. Receiving both audio and video FaceTime calls is the same as answering the phone.

Making a FaceTime audio call is a bit different, however. To make an audio call, perform the following steps:

  1. Open to the FaceTime app on your Mac or iOS device
  2. Tap on Contacts
  3. Select a contact
  4. If the user has FaceTime enabled, then under the "FaceTime" heading, you'll see a phone and video button. Select the phone button (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B

In the FaceTime section of the contact card, you'll see options for FaceTime audio and video if the recipient has enabled FaceTime on their devices.

By selecting the phone button in the FaceTime section for the contact, you'll be placing a FaceTime audio call instead of a FaceTime video call. The call is identical to a regular phone call, except it uses the data plan on your device (or the Wi-Fi) to place the call instead of your cellular minutes.

The recipient of the call will see your default outbound FaceTime address or number listed in their caller ID section.

Checking the data usage

After you make a FaceTime audio call, you can check and see just how much data was used for the call. Unfortunately, due to the dynamic routing and quality of FaceTime calls, you cannot determine beforehand how much data will be used based on the number of minutes that you talk.

To check the usage, navigate to the FaceTime application, and notice the recent calls list that appears when first launching the application. Here, you can press the "i" button beside of any FaceTime audio call to get the details view.

In the detail view, you can see how many minutes the call took, followed by the amount of data in parenthesis (Figure C).

Figure C

Figure C

iOS automatically tracks the amount of data used for each call over FaceTime audio.

Wrap up

FaceTime audio calls are immensely useful and can come in handy if you need to make an international call and don't want to waste precious cellular minutes or pay international or roaming fees to your carrier.

Unfortunately, you can only call numbers that are compatible with FaceTime video calls. This also means that you cannot bridge multiple callers into one call -- thus, you're only able to make a 2-way call.

Do you use FaceTime audio or video calling? Let us know in the discussion below if you have any helpful tips or tricks on using this great method of communication.

About

Cory Bohon is an indie developer specializing in iOS and OS X development. He runs a software company called Cocoa App and is also a developer at MartianCraft. He was introduced to technology at an early age and has been writing about his favorite te...

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