FaceTime is an Apple-provided service for iOS and macOS users that allows for peer-to-peer video and audio communication with no setup requirements and no need to memorize the username of the person you'd like to chat with. Everything is built right into the operating system, so there's no additional apps to download, install, and set up. The FaceTime service is free—even when calling internationally, since FaceTime calls are routed through the internet.
SEE: Skype adds real-time translation; Slack launches video calls (TechRepublic)
Caveats to using FaceTime audio and video
- Some cellular providers block or limit access to FaceTime audio and/or video over cellular data.
- You must be connecting to a user that has an iOS or macOS device; Windows and Android users won't be able to make or receive FaceTime calls.
- FaceTime audio and video is only for 1-to-1 calls and cannot do conference calls with multiple callers.
FaceTime works on these devices
- iPhone 4 or later
- iPad 2 or later
- iPad mini (all models)
- iPod touch (4th generation and later for video calls; 5th generation and later for audio calls)
Setting up FaceTime
It's super simple to set up FaceTime—you just need to logged into your iCloud account, and then follow these steps:
- Open Settings.
- Open the FaceTime settings.
- Follow the login flow to sign in with your Apple ID.
Once you've signed in with your Apple ID, the iPhone that you are using will have its phone number registered with the FaceTime service, and you will be able to make and receive FaceTime audio and video calls at that number (Figure A).
Using FaceTime video
Let's take a look at the two possible options for starting a FaceTime video call: via Siri or in Contacts.
Starting a FaceTime call with Siri
Siri is one of the easiest ways to use FaceTime to make a new video call. Activate Siri by pressing the Home button and saying "FaceTime [x]"—x is the name of the person in your Contacts list you'd like to call, or it's a phone number of an iOS user. After a few seconds, Siri will dial the user on FaceTime video.
Starting a FaceTime call in Contacts
The Contacts app is also an easy place to start a FaceTime call. If you're already browsing your Contacts, open a card for a particular contact. If the contact has a FaceTime-compatible device registered for their email address or phone number, you'll see a FaceTime section (Figure B). Select the video camera button to begin a FaceTime call with the contact. This will open the FaceTime interface and dial the user.
Using FaceTime audio
FaceTime audio works in a similar fashion to FaceTime video calling. To start a call, follow these steps.
- Open the Contact app on your device.
- Browse to a contact card that has a FaceTime-enabled device.
- In the FaceTime section, tap the Phone button (see above in Figure B next to the video calling button).
In addition, you can initiate a FaceTime audio call through Siri by saying "FaceTime Audio [x]"—x is the name of a person in your contacts or a phone number of the person you'd like to initiate a FaceTime audio call with.
Tips and tricks for using FaceTime
How to use call waiting with FaceTime audio
Starting with iOS 9.3 and later, call waiting can be used during a FaceTime audio call. When another call comes in—whether it's another FaceTime audio call or a cellular phone call—you have three options:
- You can end the current call and accept the incoming call.
- You can accept the incoming call and put the current call on hold.
- You can decline the incoming call and continue the current call.
All of these options will be presented in the in-call interface when the new call comes in.
How to block unwanted callers
If you frequently get unwanted callers on your FaceTime audio or video email address or cellular phone number, you might want to block those callers. For specifics, read our guide on blocking numbers in iOS.
How to start a FaceTime call in a phone call
If you are already in a cellular call with a FaceTime user, a FaceTime button will appear in the in-call interface (Figure C). If you want to initiate a FaceTime call, tap this button and iOS will seamlessly transition the audio-only cellular call into a FaceTime video call and will stop the cellular call. The call from this point on will be using the data on your cellular plan or your Wi-Fi, and will no longer use minutes on your account.
- FaceTime guide: FAQs and alternatives (CNET's Download.com)
- WhatsApp is taking on Apple FaceTime and Skype with free video calls for one billion users (ZDNet)
- Enterprise admins should say no to FaceTime (TechRepublic)
- Google Duo simplifies video calls, and impresses with a clutter-free UI (TechRepublic)
- Three Apple predictions for 2017 (TechRepublic)
- Telecommuting Policy (Tech Pro Research)
Cory Bohon is an indie developer, creating both iOS and OS X applications at Cocoa App (his own company), MartianCraft, and for various other clients. As a part of full disclosure, he does not write about any software that he has created or has helped to create through these outlets.
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 technology part-time since 2007. He runs a development blog named ObjDev when he isn’t writing about consumer tech.