How to use Group FaceTime

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If you lack human touch because you have to work from home, Apple’s Group FaceTime is for you. However, there are plenty of ways to set it up and use it, so here are the steps you can take.

As so many people are first faced with working from home, it is important that everyone stays in touch, not just for their work, but for their sanity. A drastic change to working alone at home, instead of working with many people in an office, is a challenge both for our mindset and for the practicalities of work continuity.

There is Group FaceTime, however, and it’s so useful for this moment that Apple could have even invented it specifically for this moment.

He has took time for Apple to publish it, fix bugs, and work on security concerns, but now Group FaceTime is available to all of us, as long as we use Apple hardware. There is no FaceTime for Android and that alone may be enough to force you to use something like Skype. But if you’re all on iPhone, iPad, or Mac, Group FaceTime is now a solid, useful, even vital service.

There are specific hardware requirements that not everyone in your family or business will have, but there are also workarounds for this that will at least help a little.

You can start a group call from the FaceTime app

What you need for Group FaceTime

You can enjoy the full Group FaceTime experience on Macs running macOS Mojave 10.14.3 or later. And on iPhone or iPad with iOS 12.1.4 or newer.

For iOS, that means you’re limited to iPhone 6S, seventh generation iPod, and some iPads. Specifically the original iPad Pro, the iPad Air 2, iPad (fifth generation) or iPad mini 4, or later.

However, if you have older hardware, you can still join a group FaceTime call, audio only. Likewise, you can participate in audio only through your Apple Watch. Audio-only isn’t ideal at the moment, as it can be confusing to hear too many voices competing for attention. However, Apple is reportedly looking for ways to fight that.

How to start a group FaceTime call

There are three ways to start a group FaceTime call, and the first is to simply start a regular one-on-one FaceTime call. Search for a person in your People app, then tap to see their full contact card.

  • Faucet video under their name
  • To choose FaceTime from the list that appears

Depending on what other apps you have on your phone, you will usually find that in addition to FaceTime you have some such as WhatsApp listed under this video setting.

Rather than choosing from the options on this menu, you may prefer to start by simply phoning someone. Tap their number in your favorites, choose them from your contacts list, or enter a number on the keypad.

  • When they answer say hello
  • Move the phone away from your ear for the commands to reappear
  • Faucet FaceTime

After participating in a FaceTime chat with that person, you can add more. By default, you don’t see anything on your screen during a FaceTime call except your caller video and your own. Tap the screen to display the controls, and you get options like End Call. Instead of tapping on one of the controls, swipe up and you’ll get more, including one called Add a person.

Tap on it to add someone else. This is great when you want to have a private first chat with someone before you both start a group chat, but it can also be tedious to add one person at a time.

The easiest way to start a group FaceTime call is when you've all been together in a group chat Messages

The easiest way to start a group FaceTime call is when you’ve all been together in a group chat Messages

Use the FaceTime app

You may not even realize that there is one. If you use the Phone app most of the time, there’s no reason to open the FaceTime app, until you want to add lots of people to a group call.

  • Open FaceTime
  • Tap the plus icon at the top right
  • Add a contact
  • Tap the plus icon to add more
  • Choose Audio or Video

When you add contacts, you’ll likely be prompted with a list of options similar to when you make a one-on-one call. Now it depends on what numbers or addresses you have for them, but you might be asked again to choose from a list that includes options like WhatsApp.

You have to choose FaceTime, but the way this screen is presented, it looks like you were going to call them now. You’re not, however, you just add them to your call list, and no one is dialed until they all are.

How to use Group FaceTime in messages

Again, this only works if everyone is using Apple hardware, but if you’re in a group chat in Messages, you can move everyone to a group FaceTime call instead. This has the advantage that you don’t have to add anyone now, you’ve already done that for the Messages group chat – or you’ve been added to this chat by someone else who has done the hard work.

  • In Messages, tap the icon showing everyone’s face at the top of the screen
  • In the commands that appear, choose FaceTime.

That’s it, you’re done and in a group FaceTime chat. You can add more people, up to a total of 32, including yourself, and of course any member of your party can drop out whenever they want.

If you are the one who wants to quit the chat, then even if you are the one who configured everything, you can press to display the controls and then the red X icon.

You don’t have to worry about cutting everyone off. The group call will continue without you or anyone else leaving, until the last two people hang up.


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