You can video call up to 31 people (32 if you include yourself) as long as all your participants are using an iPhone, iPad or Mac runing iOS 12.1 or Mojave. In this article we will explain how to Group FaceTime multiple people, 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.

Wondering if FaceTime is offline? Apple has taken 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 is attempting to fix the security hole.

What you need for Group FaceTime

Group FaceTime was one of the new features promised in iOS 12 that got the most attention, but it was absent from iOS 12 when it launched, finally arriving with iOS 12.1 on 30 October. Here's what you all need to be running to use Group FaceTime: 

  • All participants need to be using Apple devices, running iOS 12.1.
  • To group video you and your participants need an iPhone 6s or later, iPad Pro or later, iPad Air 2, or iPad Mini 4. Older devices that can run iOS 12.1 can join the Group FaceTime call but only as an audio participant.
  • Your recipients may need to set their devices up to receive FaceTime calls over 4G if they are not connected to WiFi
  • The participants also need to have set up FaceTime on their devices. We explain how to use FaceTime here.

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’ll start with how to use FaceTime to Group video call.

How to use FaceTime to make a group video call

If you want to create a group for your FaceTime call, rather than add each participant after the call has started (which may, of course, suit you if you wanted to talk to one participant separately, so we will address that below) then you need to follow these steps:

  1. Open the FaceTime app on your iPhone, iPad or Mac.
  2. Press the + in the top right corner on an iPhone or iPad (if you are using a Mac, just tap in the box).
  3. Now enter a name or number for the first person you are calling.
  4. 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.)
  5. Now tap either Video or Audio to initiate the call.

If you search for a contact to add to the FaceTime call and grey rather than blue and can't be selected, their Apple device most likely hasn’t been updated to iOS 12.1 or MacOS Mojave, or FaceTime hasn’t been set up on their device.

Add to facetime call

How to make a Group FaceTime call using Messages

An even easier way of setting up the call, however, may be to do so via the Messages app. From a group message thread it's easy to switch to video.

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.

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:

  1. Open Messages on your iPhone, iPad.
  2. Open an existing group conversation or begin a new one.
  3. On an 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. It will specify how many participants are active. Your contact need only tap on the Join button to join the call.

Join FaceTime call

We think you should also be able to do this on a Mac. If you open an existing conversation, click on Details and then click on the camera icon. We assume this should open the FaceTime app, although at the time of writing it isn’t working as expected.

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 (more on that below).

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 or Skype offer, incidentally, which each support 25.

  1. Once the call has started, click on the …
  2. You will see a screen that allows you to add people. Tap on Add Person. Add person to call
  3. Select the contact you wish to join the call.
  4. They will receive an alert that you are asking them to join the call.

If you have an existing group set up you can’t add new participants until you have initiated a new call.

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.

Group FaceTime Call

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 to leave FaceTime call

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.

Reasons why FaceTime Group Video Call is Not Working

There are a few reasons why you may not be able to make or join a Group FaceTime call.

  • As we said above, if one of your participants hasn’t updated to iOS 12.1 they will not be able to join the video call.
  • Similarly if you haven’t installed iOS 12.1 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 running iOS 12.1 on an 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.
  • As of 22 January 2019 Group FaceTime has been offline while Apple attempts to fix a security issue that meant someone could listen and watch you via FaceTime even if you didn't answer the call. More information here: Is FaceTime private? Can FaceTime be hacked, tapped?

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 and Animoji here.

Memoji in FaceTime

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