We can't all be with our family for Christmas, but that doesn't mean you can't 'see' your family. As long as your relatives have an Apple device they can run FaceTime and you can video call them and share some seasonal cheer.

How to use FaceTime on iPad, iPhone & Mac: What you need

You and the family member you are calling will need a reasonably modern iOS device (running a reasonably recent version of iOS).

You will both need an iPhone 4 or later, iPad 2 or later, iPad mini, or iPod touch 4th generation or later. (There are a few countries in the Middle East that won't allow FaceTime calls).

You can also FaceTime from your Mac to their Mac, iPad or iPhone, or equally they can receive the FaceTime call on their Mac.

To use FaceTime on on the iPod touch and non-cellular iPads, you will need to be connected to a Wi-Fi network. You can make FaceTime calls from a cellular iPad or iPhone using 3G or 4G, but if you want to do this remember that it could eat into your mobile data allowance.

How to use FaceTime on iPad, iPhone & Mac: Turn on FaceTime  

On your iOS device, tap Settings > FaceTime and make sure the FaceTime switch is in the On position.
You may need to log in with your Apple ID - the usual email address and password you use when buying from the App Store.

If you are using an iPhone to log on to FaceTime your iPhone number will be associated with FaceTime, but you can also add email addresses that people can use to FaceTime call you on. You will have to add email addresses if your device isn't an iPhone.

You will potentially see a list of email addresses and your mobile number at which you can be reached via a FaceTime call.

You can also choose what Caller ID you display here.

How to use FaceTime on iPad, iPhone & Mac: Make the call

Tap the FaceTime app icon on your iPhone or iPad.

Tap on the contact you want to call, or enter their name, email address, or phone number. Obviously, you will need the persons phone number or Apple registered email address, so ask them for it if you don't have it.

You can place either a video or audio-only call just by tapping the appropriate tab [We have more on making free FaceTime audio calls here].

When the person you can calling accepts the video call you'll see the word Connecting appear on your device.

You can also switch to a FaceTime call while you are on a normal phone call to a person. Just tap the FaceTime icon and wait for it to connect.

How to use FaceTime on iPad, iPhone & Mac: Configure FaceTime on Mac

FaceTime configuration is handled within the FaceTime app on your Mac. Launch it (if you can't find it use Spotlight to search for it by tapping cmd+spacebar and typing FaceTime).

When you launch it you will see your face, as captured by your Mac's built-in camera (you'll need a web cam if your Mac doesn't have a built in iSight camera - most do, apart from the Mac mini and Mac Pro).

Choose Preferences from the FaceTime menu at the top of the screen to access your FaceTime settings — including the Apple ID and contact numbers associated with it.

How to use FaceTime on iPad, iPhone & Mac: I haven't got FaceTime on my Mac!

FaceTime is part of the Mac Operating System OS X, but it may be missing if you have an older version of OS X - such as Snow Leopard. In that case, you can download FaceTime from the Mac App Store for 79p here.

How to use FaceTime on iPad, iPhone & Mac: Make the call on Mac

To place a call, just enter a name found in the Contacts app, an email address, or a phone number associated with an Apple ID. As with the iOS version, you can place audio as well as video calls.

How to use FaceTime on iPad, iPhone & Mac: Should I use a mobile number or email address?

If you know the person you're calling has an iPhone, you will probably have the best results if you use their phone number as the first point of contact. If they're using an iPad or Mac ask them to provide you with their iCloud (or .mac or .me) email addresses.

How to use FaceTime on iPad, iPhone & Mac: Troubleshooting

Here are some common FaceTime problems and how to fix them.

I have their mobile number/Apple email address but I can't FaceTime call them

As long as they have FaceTime enabled you should be able to use that address to reach them. You may need to talk them through how to set up FaceTime or direct them to this article.

My family member doesn't know their Apple ID so I can't FaceTime call them

You'll need an Apple ID for everything from booking an appointment at the local Apple Store's Genius Bar, to making a FaceTime call, to setting-up Apple Pay, to buying music, movies and apps, so your friend or family member will definitely benefit from discovering what theirs is!

Start off by asking them to go to System Preferences - which has an icon that looks like cogs, and can be found by clicking on the Apple logo on a Mac - and selecting iCloud. Or going to Settings > iCloud on an iPad or iPhone. Hopefully the email associated with their Apple ID will be shown there.

If it turns out that some how they never set up an Apple ID, they can sign-up for an Apple ID by visiting Apple's ID section of its website here and clicking Create An Apple ID. Make sure they aren't just creating a new Apple ID, though - Apple does not let you merge two (or more) Apple IDs into a single account, or transfer purchases or data between Apple IDs so they will only end up in a muddle later.

If they have an Apple ID but have forgotten their Apple ID password they can visit Apple's iForgot website and enter their Apple ID username.

Alternatively the person you are calling might not be connected to a WiFi network, or they might have FaceTime and the Camera turned off in Settings > General > Restrictions.

FaceTime isn't working on an older iPad or iPhone/older version of iOS

If your older iPad or iPhone is still running iOS 6 - relatively unlikely at this point, since it was replaced by the free iOS 7 update back in 2013 - then you may find that FaceTime is 'broken' until you update to a later version of iOS.

News of this potential issue emerged when a California woman sued Apple for allegedly changing the way FaceTime traffic was handled when iOS 7 was launched in such a way that iOS 6 devices wouldn't be able to run the service. As Engadget puts it, "the company allegedly let a security certificate lapse well ahead of time, breaking FaceTime for iOS 6 users... a bug that was only fixed if people upgraded to the newer OS".

Also read:

Apple ID: How to find, change, create or delete your Apple ID | How to change your Apple ID password

How to make free audio phone calls using FaceTime

How to make phone calls on your Mac