Tech Guide

How to use Group FaceTime on your iPhone to video chat with your entire family over the holidays

Key Points
  • Apple launched Group FaceTime in iOS 12.1 recently.
  • It lets you add up to 32 people to a video chat, as long as they have FaceTime, which means Android users can't join.
  • CNBC's Todd Haselton shows you how to use Group FaceTime.
Chatting with two of my colleagues.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

If your family is like mine, chances are you might find yourselves split up over the holidays. Some folks are on one coast and maybe some family members are traveling out of the country. Normally, you might video chat with individual families or people separately, but, now you can Group FaceTime with (almost) everyone at once.

In its latest iOS 12.1 update, Apple included Group FaceTime and the ability for up to 32 people to video chat at the same time on iPhone or iPad. The person who is talking becomes the largest on the screen, but you can still see everyone. There are even fun visual effects you can add to spice up the conversation.

Keep in mind that this only works for devices that support FaceTime, so Android users won't be able to join. But I like FaceTime because it lets you use someone's regular phone number to place a call, so you don't have to worry about them being logged into a service like Skype.

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

Make sure you have iOS 12.1 installed

Check to make sure you have iOS 12.1 installed.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Double check to make sure you have the most recent version of iOS installed. This is mandatory to make sure you can join group FaceTime calls.

  • Open "Settings."
  • Tap "General."
  • Select "Software Update."
  • If you're on iOS 12.1 it will tell you so. If not, it will update your iPhone or iPad.

Start a FaceTime call with someone

Choose who you want to be in a FaceTime call with, adding each person one by one.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

There are lots of ways to start a FaceTime chat. You can do it directly from iMessage, for example. But the easiest way is to:

  • Open the FaceTime app.
  • Tap the + button.
  • Add the people you want to chat with, tapping the + button each time to add another person.
  • Tap "Audio" or "Video" to begin the call.

Add more people

Add someone to your Group FaceTime.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

Don't worry if you forgot to add someone and need to add them once a call has started. To add more people to your current call:

  • Tap the three dots on the bottom right of your ongoing call.
  • Tap "Add person."
  • Enter the name or number of the person you'd like to call.

Or create a group chat and call everyone at once

You can also create a group FaceTime by starting from a group iMessage chat.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

You can also create a group iMessage chat with everyone and then initiate a FaceTime call. This is a good method if you want to make sure everyone is around before you place a call. To start a FaceTime video call from a group chat:

  • Start a new iMessage chain and include everyone you want to talk to.
  • Send a message to the group.
  • Tap the spot at the top of the chat where everyone's initials are listed.
  • Tap "FaceTime."

Play with filters and stickers

Apply fun filters or use your Memoji to talk.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

You can make the video chat a little more fun by adding filters or stickers to your video. Here's how:

  • While the chat is going, tap the star icon on the bottom left of the screen.
  • You'll see the standard iMessage app menu. Tap through the icons to add various effects to your chat.
  • One lets you use your Memoji to chat, for example, as you can see above.
  • Play around with the different effects and have some fun.
How to get the most out of Apple's iOS 12
How to get the most out of Apple's iOS 12