How to Make Group FaceTime Video Calls On iPhone, iPad or Mac

In this article we will explain how to Group FaceTime multiple people, how many participants in a FaceTime call (to 31 people – 32 if you include yourself), how to add people to a FaceTime group call, and what to do if Group FaceTime is not working. It’s time to join your family and friends in a Group FaceTime call – here’s how.

What you need for Group FaceTime

All participants need to be using Apple devices these could include:

  • An iPhone 6s or later, iPad Pro or later, iPad Air 2, or iPad Mini 4 running iOS 12.1.4 or later.
  • A Mac running Mojave 10.14.3 or later.
  • The participants need to have set up FaceTime on their devices. Go to Settings > FaceTime > and make sure that the slider beside FaceTime is green. (We explain how to use FaceTime on an iPhone/iPad here and we discuss how to set up FaceTime on a Mac here.)
  • Your recipients may need to set their iPhone up to receive FaceTime calls over 4G if they are not connected to WiFi. Tell them to go to Settings > Mobile Data. Scroll down to FaceTime and make sure that the slide is green.
  • Crucially your participants actually need to be actively using their device before you can place the FaceTime call to them otherwise they will appear to not be available and you won’t be able to add them to the call. For that reason we suggest that you alert people to the call and make sure they are all ready and waiting!

This doesn’t mean that if you don’t have one of the above you won’t be able to participate in a FaceTime call, you just won’t be able to connect to more than one other person. If you just want to make a standard, person-to-person FaceTime call here’s what you need:

  • Macs running OS X Mavericks 10.9.2 or later
  • An iPhone or iPad running iOS 7 or later

How to make a Group FaceTime call

There are three ways to make a Group FaceTime call. You can either create a group in Messages or use an existing Messages group, you can also place the Group FaceTime call through the FaceTime app, or you can FaceTime a contact from the Phone app and add another participant.

Once you have made a Group FaceTime call it will be simple to place the another video call to the same people via the Phone app as it will appear in Recents. The same applies in the FaceTime app.

We will start with how to place a Group FaceTime call using Messages because it’s by far the simplest method.

How to make a Group FaceTime call using Messages

You might assume the place to place a group FaceTime call would be in the FaceTime app, but the easier way of setting up the call is actually in the Messages app. From a group message thread it’s really easy to switch to video. You can do this on a Mac, iPhone or iPad.

Members of the group will be able to join in or drop out of the video chat at any time – they won’t all be automatically swept into the video call against their wishes.

On the Mac

We prefer the Mac for making Group FaceTime calls just because the screen is bigger, so we’ll start off with that option.

You can place a Group FaceTime call from Messages on a Mac, here’s how:

    1. Go to Messages and open an existing conversation or create a new group.
    2. Click on Details beside the names of the people in the group.
  • Now click on the camera icon. This automatically opens the FaceTime app and attempts to place the Group FaceTime call.

On iPhone or iPad

If you frequently message the group of people you wish to FaceTime call you can easily place the group video call via the Messages app. Here’s how to do it on an iPhone or iPad:

  1. Open Messages on your iPhone, iPad.
  2. Open an existing group conversation or begin a new one.
  3. On your iPhone or iPad tap the top section of the screen where you can see the participants in the conversation – where it says ‘x people >’.
  4. Now choose FaceTime.

The people you are calling will receive an alert that a FaceTime call is taking place in their Messages. It will specify how many participants are active. Your contact need only tap on the Join button to join the call.

How Group FaceTime on a Mac

You can obviouly place a Group FaceTime call from FaceTime on your Mac – and as we said already the Mac is a great device to use to make a group FaceTime call thanks to its large screen. We’ll run through the steps to take to set up a group of contacts to video call on a Mac, as well as how to add more contacts once a call has started.

    1. Open the FaceTime app on your Mac.
    2. Where it says ‘Enter a name, email or number’ start to type the name of the first contact you want to call.
    3. Below you will see a number of contacts appear. These come from your Contacts. Unfortunately it’s not obvious at this stage whether the Contacts you add are available for FaceTime. Click the numbers or email addresses you think are likely to work for FaceTime.
    4. Once you have added all the people you want on the call click on the green video icon at the bottom of the window.
  • This won’t immediately initiate the call. It will take you to a screen that shows the status of the people in your list. You will now see who you can Group FaceTime. If they aren’t ready to receive the FaceTime call you will see ‘Not Connected’ or ‘Not Available’ next to them. If they have FaceTime but aren’t actively using it then you’ll see a grey Ring button, but if they are available you will see a green Ring button beside their name.
  • If you want to add more people prior to making the call you can click on the + to add more people and enter details in the enter box as before. Keep adding contacts until all the people you want to add are on the call – you can add 31 people (that’s 32 including yourself.) You can also add people once the call is in progress.
  • Now tap the video icon at the bottom of the window to initiate the call.
  • Once you have connected to at least one other person you can add more people to the call by clicking on the rectangular icon on the left. That will open a column on the left of the window. You can add more contacts here and add them to the call in progress.

How Group FaceTime on an iPhone/iPad

If you want to call a group of people on FaceTime from your iPhone or iPad here’s what to do.

You can set up a list of people you want in the call before you place the call and call them all at the same time, or you can add participants after the call has started (which may, of course, suit you if you wanted to talk to one participant separately before the call begins).

    1. Open the FaceTime app on your iPhone or iPad.
    2. Press the + in the top right corner on an iPhone or iPad.
    3. Now enter a name or number for the first person you are calling.
    4. You will see results from your Contacts appear. After a few seconds their details should turn dark blue, indicating that you can FaceTime them. If they are grey you won’t be able to add them – this means they either aren’t available on FaceTime right now, or they don’t have an Apple device. Tap on their name to add them.
    5. Keep adding contacts until everyone you want to call is included (unless you only want to place the call to one person to start with).
    6. Now tap on Video to start your Group FaceTime call.
  • You can add more people to your call by swiping up from the bottom of the screen until you see the option Add, or by tapping on the three dots and choosing Add (what you see will depend on the device you are using).

How to make a FaceTime call via the Phone app

While you can make a standard FaceTime call from the Phone app there is no option to place a Group FaceTime call this way. However, you can add a person to a FaceTime call once you have started a video call with a contact this way.

  1. Start by finding the first person you want to FaceTime in your Contacts or Recents list and tap on the i icon beside their name.
  2. Choose the option to Video call them from the various icons below their name.
  3. Once that video call is in progress you can tap the … to add more participants.

How to add more people to a FaceTime call

You an add up to 32 people to a FaceTime call, that’s more than Google Hangouts offers (25). Skype used to be limited to 25 but now allows up to 50 people in the call, while Zoom can include 100 people. Chances are that if you are just calling friends and family, or maybe a few collegues, the 32 people limnit of FaceTime will be more than enough.

Once your call has started you can add more people up to that limit. Note that if you have an existing group set up you can’t add new participants until you have initiated a new call.

Here’s to add more people to your FaceTime call:

On an iPhone/iPad

    1. Once the call has started, click on the … or swipe up from the bottom of the screen until you see the option Add Person.
    2. You will see a screen that allows you to add people. Tap on Add Person.
  • Select the contact you wish to join the call.
  • They will receive an alert that you are asking them to join the call.

On a Mac

  1. Once you have connected to at least one other person in FaceTime you can add more people to the call by clicking on the rectangular icon on the left of the screen.
  2. A column will open on the left of the window.
  3. Add more contacts here and add them to the call in progress.

What happens in a Group FaceTime call

For conversations with a lot of participants, the interface is split into two sections. At the top there are the participants that, during the WWDC presentation about the new feature, Apple’s Craig Federighi referred to as the “leaders”. The other participants are relegated to the “roster” at the bottom. (For smaller groups there won’t be a roster – everyone will have a larger tile further up.) Your tile sits in the bottom righthand corner.

The tiles vary in size and prominence depending on how recently that person spoke. When someone starts talking their tile automatically gets bigger; it will stay that way until someone else starts talking, even if the first person stops. In similar fashion, someone from the roster can be promoted to the top section if they start talking.

If you want to give one of the participants more prominence even when they’re not talking, double-tap their tile and they will be brought forward. This effect won’t apply to what everyone else is seeing, of course.

How to leave a Group FaceTime call

If you would like to leave a group FaceTime call a just tap on the big red X.

How can I find someone in a call

While a call is in progress you’ll see different tiles for different participants. If they are a video participant then you will see their face.

The tiles will be bigger depending on whether the person is speaking or spoke recently. So it’s easy to find someone who is leading the call but more difficult to find someone who isn’t speaking. However, you can scroll through the different tiles and search for them and then once you find them, double-tap on their icon to maximise it. Nobody else will be aware that you have done this.

People who haven’t joined the call will have different coloured icons at the bottom of the screen with their initials.

Why can’t I use Group FaceTime

There are lots of reasons why you may not be able to make or join a Group FaceTime call. It’s possible that FaceTime is offline due to a fault, or it might be that the people you are trying to call don’t have data right now.

Back in 2019 Apple took Group FaceTime offline while it addresses an issue that made it possible for someone to listen and see you via FaceTime without you even answering the call! The flaw was discovered on Monday 28 January 2019 and Apple quickly fixed the security hole. We discuss whether FaceTime is safe to use here.

Below we will run through some of the reasons why Group FaceTime might not be working for you:

  • As we said above, if one of your participants isn’t running an up-to-date version of iOS or mac OS they will not be able to join the video call.
  • Similarly if you aren’t running the right OS you won’t be able to set up the call.
  • A participant may not be able to join as a video participant if they are using older iPhone or iPad (supported models are listed above). But they may be able to join as an audio participant.
  • FaceTime requires a good amount of bandwidth from your Internet connection to work properly, so ideally you and your participants need to be connected to broadband or 4G (assuming you Settings allow FaceTime calls to be made over a cellular connection: check in Mobile/Cellular and scroll to FaceTime and check that the slider is green).
  • It might be a good idea to warn the participants you are planning to make the group video call so that they can be prepared to join it.

How can I get one of the FaceTime effects

This isn’t specific to group chats, but iOS 12 bought some fun new visual effects to FaceTime and you may well see some of the other call participants taking advantage of them.

Individual participants can choose to add stickers, apply photo filters (such as a cartoon effect), or replace their heads with Animoji. We explain how to create Memoji here and how to use Animoji here.

  1. If you want to use your Memoji or an Animoji as your face for the FaceTime video call here’s what to do:
  2. Once the call is placed tap on Effects at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Now tap on the monkey face icon.
  4. You can choose from different Animoji or any Memojis you have set up here. Tap on the one you want and it will appear in place of your face.

Experiment to find the effects that amuse you and your friends the most.

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