FaceTime: What It Is & How to Use It

Make video and audio calls over Wi-Fi and cellular networks

FaceTime is an app that supports video and audio calling between Apple devices. It doesn't replace your regular phone calls but instead is provided as an alternative.

Apple's FaceTime app works on Wi-Fi, so one major benefit it has over your regular Phone app is that it can make free internet-based calls anywhere you have a Wi-Fi connection. You can use FaceTime from home, a hotel, restaurants, or any Wi-Fi hotspot without the need for quality mobile service. Plus, since Wi-Fi is supported, it works on not only iPhone but also iPod touch, iPad, and Mac.

However, FaceTime also runs on cellular networks, so you can use it away from home, too, via your device's mobile data plan.

FaceTime Video Calls

One side of FaceTime is the video calling feature. Introduced with the iPhone 4 in 2010, FaceTime Video uses the device's front-facing camera to show the caller to the receiver, and vice versa.

FaceTime calls can be made between any two FaceTime-compatible devices, such as from iPhone 8 to iPhone X, from Mac to iPhone, or from iPad to iPod touch — the devices don't need to be the same model or type.

For many years, FaceTime only supported direct, person-to-person video calls, but as of iOS 12.1, you can make group calls with FaceTime.

FaceTime Audio Calls

While FaceTime Video has been around since 2010, it wasn't until 2013 with iOS 7 that Apple released FaceTime Audio. Very similar to the video feature, this one is simply audio-only, so only your voice is transmitted in the call.

FaceTime Audio is particularly useful for people who don't have unlimited calling plans because it uses data instead of minutes, meaning that as long as you have the data to support it, you can make "free" FaceTime calls to any other user of an Apple device.

However, FaceTime audio calls do use data, so if you have a limited data plan, you might opt out of using FaceTime Audio too often.

FaceTime System Requirements

  • iOS Version: iOS 4 or newer
  • Mac Software: Mac OS X 10.6.6 or newer with the FaceTime app (it's included free with most installations)
  • Device: iPhone 4 and newer, 4th generation iPod touch and newer, iPad 2 and newer, Mac with camera

FaceTime doesn't work on older Apple devices like iPhone 3G and 3GS.

FaceTime Compatibility

FaceTime runs on both Wi-Fi and cellular networks. When originally released, it only worked over Wi-Fi because phone companies were concerned that video calls would consume too much bandwidth, resulting in slow network performance and high data usage bills. 

With the introduction of iOS 6 in 2012, that restriction was removed. FaceTime calls could, and still can be, placed over 3G, 4G, and 5G networks.

At its introduction in June 2010, FaceTime only worked on iOS 4 running on the iPhone 4. Support for the iPod touch was added in the fall of 2010, Mac in February 2010, and iPad in March 2011 (starting with iPad 2).

FaceTime is an Apple technology and thus only runs on Apple devices. You can't run FaceTime on Android and there isn't a Windows FaceTime download. However, there are plenty of other video and audio calling apps for those devices.

How to Make a FaceTime Call

Screenshots of an iPhone showing how to add contacts and start a call in Facetime

Using FaceTime on your iOS device is easy. Just launch the FaceTime app (it's green like the one for your normal phone), choose a contact to call, and select either Audio or Video.

You can also select a recipient from Contacts and then choose the FaceTime icon under the phone or the video camera to start either type of call.

There are several reasons FaceTime might not be working when you try it, but the first thing you should check if it doesn't work is that it's actually enabled in Settings. Go to Settings > FaceTime and make sure the feature is turned on.

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