FaceTime has been pretty much the same ever since Apple added support for cellular networks back in iOS 6 (FaceTime itself was released in iOS 4), though they did add "official" support for audio-only calls in iOS 7. But the one feature everyone has been wanting ever since then, group video calls, has evaded us — until now.
Apple introduced group video calls to FaceTime on June 4 during the iOS 12 revealed at WWDC 2018. While the feature itself won't be rolled out to everyone until September, developers and public beta testers can get their hands on it right now via the iOS 12 beta. However, only other users with the iOS 12 beta will be able to join you on group calls, so you can probably count mom and dad out.
It's surprising that Apple waited so long to support group video calls in FaceTime when many of its competitors — Skype, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, etc. — have had group video calls for some time now. But all that matters now is that it is here, and here's how it works:
Starting a group chat on FaceTime is really easy. First, open up FaceTime and tap the "plus" icon in the top-right corner. Then, choose exactly who you want to create the group FaceTime with. You can chat with up to 32 people, so don't worry about leaving anyone out.
You can also start a group chat from Messages by creating a group chat, tapping on the bubble at the top with everyone's names in it, then hitting "FaceTime." Keep in mind this will only work if everyone in the group is running iOS 12. If there's already a group FaceTime chat going on inside your iMessage group chat, there will be a button inside your group chat — just tap it to hop in.
FaceTime group chats have a really cool and distinctive look to them. Each person in the chat appears inside a little tile that expands when they start talking, so you always know exactly who is saying what. Additionally, you can use Animojis while you group FaceTime by tapping on your own tile. You also have access to filters and sticker packs to help you stand out among the 31 other possible call participants.
You can also tap on anyone's thumbnail to view their video feed up front and center, pushing everyone back to the background.
While having the ability to group chat in FaceTime with my fellow iPhone users has been wanted for a long time, it's better late than never. What's your favorite iOS 12 feature? Who are you planning to video chat with? Let us know in the comments below.