FaceTime video chatting is a great way to keep up with family and friends anywhere in the world, and it's completely free to use.

Because it's free to FaceTime it's a great solution for calling people when you have limited minutes on your iPhone contract. Rather than phoning them the normal way, use FaceTime and you can place the call via your data connection, or a local Wi-Fi network.

And because the call is being routed over the web, you don't have to worry about expensive call charges if you phone someone in a different country.

Call quality is better too. FaceTime uses HD audio so voices sound richer compared to what you hear via a regular phone signal. 

Finally there is a bonus for anyone who doesn't own an iPhone - if you have an iPod touch or at the very least an iPad 2, you can make FaceTime calls over WiFi using the device. Now your kids finally have the iPhone they always wanted. Sort of.

You can FaceTime from your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Mac to anyone who has a Mac, iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Here's how:

Read our guide to using FaceTime on a Mac here.

How to set up FaceTime on an iPhone, iPad

Here's what you and the person you are calling need for FaceTime to work:

  • You and the person you are calling will need a Mac or an iOS device that supports FaceTime (so that’s an iPhone 4 or later running iOS 4.1 or later, an iPod touch running iOS 4.1 or later, an iPad 2 or later, or a Mac running OS X 10.9.2 or later).
  • You and the recipient also need to be connected to the internet. To use FaceTime you will need to be connected to a Wi-Fi network or have access to 3G or 4G data. 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.
  • You both need a built-in or connected camera and mic - this shouldn't be a problem unless the person you are calling has a Mac mini or an older Mac that doesn't have a FaceTime camera.

Here's how to set FaceTime up on your device:

  1. On your iOS device, tap Settings > FaceTime 
  2. Make sure the FaceTime switch is in the On position. (You may have to wait a few seconds for activation, and approve the fact that you wish to associate the device with your FaceTime and iMessage).
  3. Select 'Use your Apple ID for FaceTime'.
  4. Enter your details, tap Sign In.
  5. Select which email and phone numbers you want people to contact you on when using the service. You can be contacted on FaceTime using your mobile number, but also email addresses. If you scroll down this page you will see the email addresses and, if you are using an iPhone to log on to FaceTime, your iPhone number. If someone wants to contact you via FaceTime they just need to use one of these addresses.
  6. If you want to edit this list you can tap on an email address to deselect it. If you want to add an email address go back to the Settings screen and click on the section at the top where you can see your name. Click on Name, Phone Numbers, Email and then next to Contactable At tap Edit. Now you can remove and add any email addresses.
  7. You can also choose the Caller ID you display when you make a call. Go back to Settings >FaceTime and scroll down to Caller ID. This could be one of the email addresses or your mobile number.
  8. Finally you can choose to allow the other caller to take FaceTime Live Photos - check that box if you are happy that someone can take a picture of you during the call.

How to use FaceTime on an iPhone, iPad

Here's how to use FaceTime to video call someone:

  1. Open FaceTime on your device. The app comes preinstalled, so you should be able to find it by searching - just pull down from just below the top of your iPhone or iPad and tap in FaceTime. 
  2. You may need to log in with your Apple ID - that's the usual email address and password you use when buying from the App Store.
  3. If you have previously made or received calls, you should see a list of people in the app. If there is nobody listed, that's fine. Just use the Search bar to enter the name of the person you wish to call and the relevant contact will appear as long as they are in your Contacts app.
  4. If the contact isn't in your Contacts app, you can just enter their email address or phone number in the search bar. As long as the email address and phone number are set up for FaceTime it should be possible to place the call.
  5. You can place a video call by tapping the video camera, or an audio-only call by tapping the handset icon (more on FaceTime Audio calling below).
  6. 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 that appears on the screen during the call and wait for it to connect.

FaceTime Audio

One often overlooked aspect of FaceTime is that of its audio function. This works in much the same way as video, but you don't have to worry about looking your best (or having to give all your attention to the person you are calling).

FaceTime Audio is a handy way to bolster the call minutes on your mobile phone tariff, and even turn your iPod touch into a mini iPhone. It essentiallly mean you can make phone calls on your iPad.

All you need is a Wi-Fi or 3G/4G connection (if your device has a data plan). You don’t even need to know someone’s phone number to make the call, as FaceTime can use an email address instead, so long as the recipient has the feature turned on.

As all of the conversations take place across the internet, you will of course need a steady connection, just as you would with a traditional call. It’s also wise to bear in mind that if your data plan has a limit you’ll need to keep a close eye on how long you’re talking when using 3G/4G, as you can eat through your rations quickly when using the feature regularly.

How to make a FaceTime Audio call

Enabling FaceTime Audio is very simple. In fact you might have done it already when you initially set up your device. To check, go to your contacts and find someone you know with an iPhone or iPad.

  1. Look for a FaceTime option beneath their phone numbers, and then to the right of this should be two icons - a video camera and a phone.
  2. Tap the phone and you’ll start a FaceTime Audio call. (If you tapped the camera icon here you would start a FaceTime video call).

You can also place a call via the FaceTime app. Here's how:

  1. Open the FaceTime app
  2. Click on Audio
  3. Tap + to add a contact or use the search field to find the contact you wish to call

See also: How to make phone calls on your Mac

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".