Does FaceTime Work on the iPhone 3GS & iPhone 3G?

Mother and daughter looking at iPhone 3G using facetime or skype in a kitchen

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FaceTime is one of the most exciting features of iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad. It's so cool and so compelling that it's spawned a ton of competing apps on the iPhone, as well as on other platforms like Windows and Android

FaceTime has been a feature of every iPhone since the iPhone 4. But what about iPhones that came out before the 4? Can you use FaceTime on the iPhone 3GS or 3G?

2 Reasons You Can't Use FaceTime on iPhone 3G and 3GS

Owners of the iPhone 3GS and 3G won't be happy to hear it, but FaceTime can't run on their phones and never will. The reason for this is that those phones have limitations that simply can't be overcome:

  1. No User-Facing Camera: The most important reason that FaceTime won't come to the 3GS or 3G is that FaceTime requires a user-facing camera on the front of the phone. Those models have only one camera and that camera is on the back of the phone. The user-facing camera, placed above the screen on newer iPhones, is the only way to take video while also letting you see the screen and the person you're talking to. The iPhone 3GS or 3G's back camera could take video of you, but you wouldn't be able to see the person you're talking to. That really misses the point of a video chat, doesn't it?
  2. No FaceTime App: Hardware isn't the only limitation. There's also a software issue 3GS and 3G owners can't overcome. FaceTime comes built into the iOS. Because these models don't support FaceTime, Apple doesn't even include the app in the versions of the iOS that run on the 3GS and 3G. Even when those models are running iOS 4 or higher, which normally include FaceTime, the app isn't present. Even if you wanted to run FaceTime on the 3GS or 3G, there's simply no way to get the app. 

Get a Version of FaceTime on 3GS/3G via Jailbreak

While all of that is true, there is technically a way around at least one of those limitations. The software issue can be overcome by jailbreaking your phone. Once you've done that, you can install third-party apps via the Cydia App Store. One such program is FaceIt-3GS.

There are two important things to remember before you pursue this path. First, FaceIt-3GS was developed years ago and may not have been updated to run with recent versions of the iOS. Second, jailbreaking your phone can void your warranty or cause other problems such as exposing your phone to viruses. Jailbreaking should only be done by tech-savvy people comfortable taking risks (if you mess up your phone trying to jailbreak, don't say we didn't warn you).

Alternatives to FaceTime on iPhone 3GS and 3G

We like to end this kind of article with suggestions for ways that readers can do something similar to what they want, even if it's not the exact thing. We can't do that in this case. Because the 3GS and 3G don't have user-facing cameras, there's just no way to get true video chat on them. There are lots of great chat tools available, from Messages to Skype to WhatsApp, but none of them provide video chat on those phones. If you've still got an iPhone 3GS or 3G and want video chat, you'll need to upgrade to a new phone