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How to use FaceTime

Video conferencing seemed to be finally finding its footing when the late Steve Jobs first announced FaceTime at the 2010 World Wide Developers Conference. More than four years later, the feature is in full swing, allowing Mac OS X and iOS users to make video calls over both Wi-Fi and cellular networks on a variety of Apple devices. The feature may not have revolutionized the way we carry out phone calls with our loved ones and peers, but it still serves as a handy alternative to Skype or Facebook Messenger. Best of all, the software works right out of the box and doesn’t require a special account or screen name to utilize — just the contact info for the person you’re trying to call. 

Here’s our guide on how to use FaceTime, so you be there in person even when you’re not. Additionally, check out our comprehensive guides on how to use iCloud and how to use Find my iPhone, along with our reigning picks for the best iPhone apps if you’re still becoming acquainted with Apple’s flagship operating system.

Choose an aspect of FaceTime:

Updated on 5-19-2014 by Brandon Widder: We updated the how-to guide to include up-to-date screenshots, navigational directions for iOS 7, and directions for making FaceTime Audio calls.

Checking your system requirements

FaceTime comes with a few stipulations. First off, the app can only be run on the following devices:

iPhone 4 (or later) iPad Mini and iPad 2 (or later)
Fourth-generation iPod Touch (or later) Mac with Mac OS X v10.6.6 (or later)

Keep in mind FaceTime video calling availability depends on carrier policies and data charges may apply while using the app over your wireless network. You will also need the phone number or email address of the person you are trying to call in order to use FaceTime, and though you can use the software via Wi-Fi using an iPhone 4 or iPad 2, neither device allows you to utilize FaceTime over your wireless network.

Launching and activating FaceTime

Launching FaceTime isn’t tough. Compatible iPhones innately tout the functionality directly out of the box, and the software is even included with OS X Snow Leopard and later versions of the OS. Moreover, Mac OS X v10.6 users can download the FaceTime application ($1) straight from the Mac App Store. Though iPhones automatically register your phone number for FaceTime upon activation, you will need to enable FaceTime while using the iPad, iPod Touch, or Mac desktop app. Launch the software as you would normally to begin, enter a valid Apple ID and password, or click the dark-grey Create New Account button located in the right-hand column and fill out the necessary fields — name, email, location, etc.—before clicking the Next button.

Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 1.27.25 PM

Next, choose the phone number and email addresses you want associated with your FaceTime account and allow Apple to automatically verify your account information. If you’re using an iPhone, navigate to the main Settings, scroll down and tap the FaceTime option, and toggle the slider directly right of FaceTime on the resulting menu. Afterward, view your listed phone number and add any email address you want associated with your FaceTime account before allowing Apple to verify the information. You can also choose which email address or phone number you want to appear during outgoing FaceTime calls at the bottom the menu.

FaceTime Final Active

Making a FaceTime call

There are several ways to make a standard FaceTime call, all of which depend on the specific FaceTime-enabled device you’re using. If you are using an iPad, iPod touch, or the the FaceTime app for Mac, you’ll need to add a person as a contact using the FaceTime or Contacts app before you can place a call with them.

iPhone:

  • Call using Contacts: Tap the blue FaceTime video icon directly right of the FaceTime option when viewing a contact to invite the other party to a FaceTime video call.
  • Call using Phone: Tap the circled FaceTime video icon located at the bottom-center during a phone call to invite the other party to a FaceTime video call.
  • Call using Messages: Tap the blue Contact option in the top-right corner when viewing a message, followed by the resulting FaceTime video icon at the top of the screen to invite the other party to a FaceTime video call.
  • Call using Siri: Assuming Siri is activated, hold the Home button for two seconds and say “FaceTime video  [insert contact name]” to invite the other party to a FaceTime video call.
FaceTime Again
 
 iPad, iPod touch, or FaceTime app for Mac OS X:
  • Call using Contacts: Tap or click the FaceTime video icon directly right of the FaceTime option when viewing a contact to invite the other party to a FaceTime video call.
  • Call using FaceTime: Tap or click a contact from the Favorites, Recents, or Contacts list, and tap or click the dark-grey FaceTime button located in the right-hand column to invite the other party to a FaceTime video call. Alternatively, click the blue FaceTime video icon directly right of the contact’s mobile number if available.

Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 1.57.33 PM

Making a FaceTime Audio Call

Initially released with iOS 7 in September 2013, FaceTime audio-only calls essentially render FaceTime a voice over Internet Protocol — aka a VoIP — similar to other mainstream providers such as Skype. The utility functions in a similar manner to a typical voice call, except the feature allows for higher quality audio while eliminating your need to monitor data usage so long as you utilize the calls via Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, the call functionality isn’t available with the fourth-generation iPod Touch, nor can you use it over your cellular data with the iPhone 4 or iPad 2.

iPhone:

  • Call using Contacts: Tap the blue FaceTime audio icon directly right of the FaceTime option when viewing a contact to invite the other party to a FaceTime audio call.
  • Call using Messages: Tap the blue Contact option in the top-right corner when viewing a message, followed by the resulting FaceTime audio icon at the top of the screen. Afterward, select FaceTime Audio from the resulting pop-up menu to invite the other party to a FaceTime audio call.
  • Call using Siri: Assuming Siri is activated, hold the Home button for two seconds and say “FaceTime audio [insert contact name]” to invite the other party to a FaceTime audio call.
FaceTime Audio Screens
 iPad, iPod touch, or FaceTime app for Mac OS X:
  • Call using Contacts: Tap or click the FaceTime audio icon directly right of the FaceTime option when viewing a contact to invite the other party to a FaceTime audio call.
  • Call using FaceTime: Tap or click a contact from the FavoritesRecents, or Contacts list, and tap or click the dark-grey FaceTime Audio button located in the right-hand column to invite the other party to a FaceTime call. 
Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 1.532.33 PM

Give it a go

That’s basically all there is to it. FaceTime doesn’t tout any particularly grand features or tools — just basic video and audio calling from one Apple user to another. Be sure to check out the Apple Support Center for additional information on how to enable and use FaceTime.

Still perplexed about how get FaceTime up and running? Did our how-to guide help you out? Let us know in the comments below.