In iOS 12.1, Apple finally added the capability to make group FaceTime calls, bringing it up to speed with the popular and competing messaging app WhatsApp.
FaceTime now provides support for both video and audio calls with up to 32 participants simultaneously. That’s quite the conversation! As ever with Apple’s own services, all chats are encrypted end-to-end to ensure all conversations remain entirely private.
So, how does it work?
You can actually instigate group calls via the FaceTime app or the Messages app. Here’s how.
To start one via the FaceTime app:
1. Open FaceTime on your device
2. Tap the + button in the top right corner
3. Either type in the name, or the first few letters so the intended contact comes up and then tap on their name
4. Tap the + button again and add up to 30 more contacts
5. Start the call by tapping either Video or Audio
Alternatively, to initiate the video or audio call from Messages:
1. Open the Messages app
2. Either tap on an existing group conversation or create a new one
3. Tap on one of the contact’s images in the middle of the top of the screen
4. Tap on FaceTime to start the call
Thankfully, Apple has added some neat little usability bits and pieces that make things easier when there are a lot of people on the line. FaceTime is able to shuffle its video windows to dynamically focus on the most prominent speakers on a call, recognizing how active they are based on their speech duration, volume, and even motion. Participants that are yet to speak will appear at the bottom of the screen until they do speak, after which their video feeds will scale up immediately.
And that’s how to use FaceTime group calls!