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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. Now, with the launch of iOS 12.1you can make group calls with up to 32 people and, yes, you can chat using your Memoji.

iOS 12.1 is available for iOS devices now. If you haven't already updated, go to Settings > General > Software Update and download the new software. 

Once you have iOS 12.1, you'll be able to make those Group FaceTime calls. Here's how to use the new feature. 

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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 the iPad Mini 4. Older iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices can still join a Group FaceTime call, but they will hear the audio portion of the call.

Through the FaceTime app

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

Open the FaceTime app on your iOS device, then tap on the + sign in the top right corner. Search for 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 private 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.

First published July 19, 5:02 p.m. PT.
Update, Nov. 1: Adds information about iOS 12.1 and device compatibility for group FaceTime calls.