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How to use Group FaceTime on your iPhone or iPad

Why FaceTime with one person when you can chat with 32?

Claudia Cruz/CNET

Group FaceTime calls were once something avid Apple fans only dreamed of. Apple originally delayed the release of the feature, but as of iOS 12.1 you can make group calls with up to 32 people and, yes, you can chat using Memoji.

The feature also works with MacOS as of MacOS 10.14.1, which was released alongside iOS 12.1. 

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Compatibility

Group FaceTime will work with nearly all iOS devices that have iOS 12 installed, but the way it works depends on your device. Older iOS devices will join Group FaceTime calls, albeit using only audio.

The devices that can participate in a video group call include the iPhone 6S or newer, the iPad Pro or newer, the iPad Air 2 and newer, and the iPad Mini 4. Again, older iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices can still join a Group FaceTime call, but they will only get the audio portion of the call.

Call with the FaceTime app

facetime-group-call-in-app
Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Place a call by opening the FaceTime app on your iOS device and tapping on the + sign in the top right corner. Search by contact name and add who you want to call, and then tap either the green Audio or Video button at the bottom.

Using the Messages app

Calling someone via FaceTime has always been possible in the Messages app, but only in individual conversation threads. Now, group messaging threads will have the option to call everyone in the group conversation. But instead of automatically calling everyone, FaceTime will send a message to the group, which includes a button to join the call. Here's how it works:

facetime-group-call-lin-convo
Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET
  • In a group conversation thread, tap the section at the top of the screen with the contact names and photos.
  • A dropdown will present you with three options: Audio, FaceTime and Info. Tap FaceTime.
  • A FaceTime group call will then open on your device, with placeholder images for every person in the group chat.
facetime-message-join
Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

In the message thread itself, other participants will see a message letting them know a FaceTime call has been started, with a button to join the call. The message also includes the number of people active in the call. If someone needs to leave the call, the button to join will remain active as long as the call is active.

Memoji

At any time during a call, you can switch to one of Apple's premade Animoji, or you can use one of your personally created Memoji by tapping on the button with a star on it. There you can pick from different filters, add text or select an animated character.

First published July 19, 5:02 p.m. PT.
Update, Jan. 25, 3:35 p.m. PT: Adds Memoji information. 

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