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FaceTime with a large group: Yes, it's possible, and it'll work on iPhone, iPad or Mac

Group FaceTime will let you chat with up to 32 people at the same time. Here's how to set up and use Apple's Zoom alternative.

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A Group FaceTime call is a convenient way to stay in touch with all of your friends. 

Andrew Hoyle/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Forget Zoom. Use your iPhoneiPad or Mac to hold a group video chat through Apple's video call platform, FaceTime. While it hasn't always supported group calls, Apple added support for up to 32 people in early 2019. That's enough for an entire classroom, club or your extended family for what's surely a much-needed break during the coronavirus pandemic

Personally, I've set up a board game on one end of the call and then using Group FaceTime to play. At first, it sounded lame and cheesy, but it was a ton of fun and put a smile on all of our faces. 

Group FaceTime works on any Apple device that's running iOS/iPadOS 12.1.4 or newer, and MacOS 10.14.3 or newer. Some older model iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches ($118 at Back Market) that aren't compatible with iOS 13 can still be part of Group FaceTime calls, but their participation will be limited to only audio. 

Here's how to use Group FaceTime on your iPhone, iPad or Mac. 

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Group FaceTime is an underrated feature of Apple products. 

CNET

Start a group call in Messages

Start a group video call directly from your group iMessage threads by tapping on the profile photos at the top of the chat. That will reveal a FaceTime button -- tap it. Each member of the group chat will receive an invitation to join the group video call. Participants can come and go as they please, as long as at least one person is active in the call.

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Group chats are just a few taps away from being a group video call. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Use the FaceTime app

You can also start a group call in the FaceTime app itself. Open the FaceTime app and tap on the "+" sign in the top-right corner. Enter a number, email address or select someone from your contacts then tap the green Video button. 

After you place the call, you can invite more people to join by swiping up in the video call and tapping on Add person

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Use the FaceTime app to create a random group video chat, too. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

You can use your Mac, too

Place a group video call from the FaceTime app on your Mac by following the same core steps as on the iPhone or iPad. You can either click on the Details button followed by the video call button in a group iMessage chat, or open the FaceTime app and enter a name, number or email address in the search field (just above your call history). Keep adding contacts until your group is finished, then click the Video call button to dial. 

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Group FaceTime works on your Mac, as well. 

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

Have some fun during the call

iPhone and iPad owners will be able to have a little bit of fun with their calls thanks to camera effects, Animoji and Memoji. While in a call, tap on the Effects button (it has a star icon) and you'll be able to add stickers, use your personalized Memoji, or make yourself look like an animated shark to keep others entertained.

For those of us who are working from home and use Google Docs, make sure to take a few minutes and set up offline sync. While you're sitting idly around your home, take the time to sanitize everything, and don't be sure you don't fall for these coronavirus myths.

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