As the COVID-19 outbreak cancelled classes at schools and closed workplaces, many people have to work from home with their iPads and iPhones from a few weeks to a month. This shifted from meeting face-to-face with colleagues, coworkers, friends and family, which means that a valuable feature first introduced in the iPhone 4, is a key part to remote work. It is called Group FaceTime, as an expansion of the FaceTime feature since iOS 12.1. Apple’s FaceTime also promoted social distancing with remote birthday parties, telemedicine, teleworking and meeting with fellow peers without getting exposed to the coronavirus.

Before using Group FaceTime, here are some prerequisites in order to use this feature. An iOS device running iOS 12.1.4 or later is required and the FaceTime app must be installed on the device, including that the country of purchase or region of the device must be eligible for FaceTime. In addition, for video FaceTime group calls, all devices supported with iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 are the only ones compatible with this capability. Earlier iPhone and iPad models that do not support iOS 13 but can support iOS 12.1.4 or later, can be only used for audio Group FaceTime. The participants’ iOS devices and Macs also need to be running these software requirements as well.

If using a Mac, then the Mac computer requires macOS Mojave 10.14.3. This feature is available for all Mac models running this version or later and with the supported region. Up to 4-9 active video tiles can show up on the Mac display, depending on the size of the model.

Now let’s start making the first Group FaceTime video conference. Open the FaceTime app and set it up. If using an iPhone, the phone number from the iPhone’s SIM card is used for the feature. Otherwise, it will use the email link to the Apple ID on the iOS device. In the app, tap the plus button on the top right corner and type in the contacts, friend’s emails and phone numbers in the field. Then tap on Video for a video Group FaceTime conference call or Audio for a phone-only conference.

To make a Group FaceTime call in group text messages or group messages, open Messages on iPhone or iPad and open or create a group conversation. Tap on the contacts on the top on the screen and then tap on FaceTime. An iMessage prompting the friends in the group conversation will be sent and the video or audio teleconference will start.

Next, iPhone and iPad users can also join another friend’s Group FaceTime call from the lock screen, FaceTime app and on the Messages app. On the lock screen, there will be a notification that one of the contacts on the iPhone has started a Group FaceTime call. Tap on the notification, then tap on the green button to get straight to the FaceTime call. In Messages, tap on the notification on the top of the screen or the Join button on the iMessage sent by whom they started the Group FaceTime call. For the FaceTime app, go to the active call and tap on the green button, which is the same as the one when joining a videoconference from the lock screen.

To add another person or contact to the call, tap on the plus sign in the call and type in the names, emails or phone numbers of the contacts in the field. Tap on the green Add Person to FaceTime button and they are all added to the Group FaceTime call. To turn the camera off, mute the audio, switch audio output formats or flip the camera, tap on the mic icon to mute, the speaker button to switch from the iPhone speaker, AirPods and to the earpiece, the camera button to turn off the camera and the flip camera button to change from the frontal FaceTime HD/TrueDepth camera to the rear camera.

Last, the FaceTime app in iOS 13.4 also includes many different ways to make Group FaceTime video calls more expressive and fun. All iOS devices in a video Group FaceTime call can use camera effects and annotate video tiles such as photo filters, text, Memoji stickers (iOS 13 or later), iMessage stickers and shapes to their video tiles. This can be done by tapping on the star icon and choosing the effects in the FaceTime call screen. iMessage stickers can be downloaded from the App Store on iOS and iPadOS, which can also be used in iMessages and the camera in Messages. This is a great feature to have fun with FaceTime and iPhone and iPad users can highlight key features in their FaceTime videos in real-time.

Users with an iPhone X or iPad Pro (3rd generation) or later can also create Memojis and Animojis and put it on their faces. This can be done by tapping the star icon on the active FaceTime call screen, opening the Animoji app on the effects area and choosing an Animoji and Memoji they created. The Animoji will then be added to your face. Tap on the Animoji or Memoji in the menu again to remove it.

This guide reflects the basics of using Group FaceTime on iOS devices running iOS 12.1.4 and later. The feature is a way for iOS users to videoconference up to 32 contacts whom they own a Mac running macOS Mojave 10.14.3 or later or own an iOS device running the aforementioned version. Group FaceTime calls have no time limits and also have many camera effects to make video calling more expressive and fun. This is an ideal feature for all iPhone and iPad users to communicate with their colleagues and relatives during the coronavirus outbreak, which includes social distancing. It is also used when remote working from home is needed during uncertain times.

(Image from Apple)


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