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FaceTime for Seniors: A Step-by-Step Guide

If you live far away from your family like I do, you know just how hard staying in touch can be. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be difficult even if you live in the same town. Luckily, there are plenty of smartphone apps to help you stay connected. One of my personal favorites is the FaceTime video chatting app for iPhones.

My grandma is the queen of FaceTime. Whether we're FaceTiming over a glass of wine or Group FaceTiming with the rest of our family, it's easy to spend virtual time together across the miles. If you have an iPhone, FaceTime is (literally) at your fingertips! You don't even need to make an account or download an app. If you're new to FaceTime, we're here to walk you through everything you need to know.

FaceTime – Our Editor FaceTiming with her grandma

How to Use FaceTime

FaceTime is pre-downloaded on iPhones, iPads, and Macs (aka Apple laptops and desktop computers). So, if you use any of those devices, you have access to this video chatting tool and won't need to fuss with downloading or signing up for anything.

Keep in mind that you can only communicate with other Apple users via FaceTime, unlike Zoom and Skype. If your friend or loved one doesn't have an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, you'll want to use Zoom or Skype to video chat with them. If your loved one has an Apple device and doesn't have FaceTime set up yet, share this guide with them. You'll all be video chatting in no time!

How to FaceTime on an iPhone or iPad

Turn FaceTime on In Your Settings

Step 1: First, you'll want to make sure FaceTime is turned on in the Settings on your iPad or iPhone. Do this by tapping the Settings icon.

FaceTime - The Settings icon

FaceTime – The Settings icon

Step 2: Next, scroll down until you see the green FaceTime icon. Tap it.

FaceTime - Scroll down in Settings

FaceTime – Scroll down in Settings

Step 3: Tap the white button on the right side of the screen to turn on FaceTime. The button should turn green once it is turned on.

FaceTime - Turn FaceTime on

FaceTime – Turn FaceTime on

Start a FaceTime Call

Now that you have FaceTime turned on, you're able to call other Apple users, and they can call you as well! There are multiple ways you can begin a FaceTime call. We'll go through each of your options below.

Start a FaceTime Call In the App

Step 1: Find the FaceTime app on your home screen and give it a tap. It looks like the image below.

FaceTime - The FaceTime app icon

FaceTime – The FaceTime app icon

Step 2: In the top right corner, you'll see a blue plus sign. Tap that.

FaceTime - Tap the plus sign

FaceTime – Tap the plus sign

Step 3: Type in the name of the person you want to call. Make sure it matches the name you have saved them under in your contacts. Also, don't forget that this person must have an Apple device. Once it appears, tap their name.

FaceTime - Type in your contact's name

FaceTime – Type in your contact’s name

Step 4: Once you have your contact selected, you can choose “Audio” or “Video.” An audio call will only be voice, just like a phone call, while a video call will allow you and the other person to see each other.

FaceTime - Select Audio or Video

FaceTime – Select Audio or Video

Step 5: After pressing “Audio” or “Video,” your phone will automatically start the call. For a video call, you'll see your face on the screen like in the image below. Once the other person answers your call, their face will appear on the screen as well. This step will be the same for the other ways to start a FaceTime call below.

Start a FaceTime Call from Your Contacts App

Step 1: On your home screen, tap the Contacts icon.

FaceTime - Contacts Icon

FaceTime – Contacts Icon

Step 2: Next, type in the name of the person you want to FaceTime in the search bar at the top. Tap their name.

FaceTime - Search for Name in Contacts

FaceTime – Search for Name in Contacts

Step 3: Tap the blue video icon below their name to start your FaceTime call.

FaceTime - Start a Video Call in Contacts

FaceTime – Start a Video Call in Contacts

Start a FaceTime Call While on a Phone Call (iPhone only)

Step 1: Start by calling the person you would like to FaceTime with your iPhone. Once they answer the phone, let them know you're going to start a FaceTime call.

Step 2: Pull the phone away from your ear and tap the video button on the screen to start the FaceTime call.1

FaceTime - Source: Apple Support

FaceTime – Source: Apple Support

Step 3: Chat away!

Important Features to Use While You FaceTime

Once you've begun your FaceTime call, there are a few features you'll want to be familiar with.

Mute and Unmute

By tapping the mute button, the person you're chatting with won't be able to hear you, but you will still be able to hear them. It is like pressing “mute” on the TV remote. This is helpful when there is background noise in your home. If your dog is barking or emergency vehicles are driving by, you can press the mute button so the other person doesn't hear the noise and can continue speaking to you. Just remember to unmute yourself by tapping the button again when you have something to say!

FaceTime - Source: Apple Support

FaceTime – Source: Apple Support

Flip the Camera

When you begin FaceTiming, the camera will be facing you. If you would like to show the person you're chatting with something other than your face, you'll want to tap the “flip” button. This (you guessed it) flips the camera around, which is perfect for showing them your sweet sleeping kitty, new furniture, or the progress on your latest puzzle! Once you're finished showing off, you can tap the flip button to show your smiling face once again.

FaceTime - Source: Apple Support

FaceTime – Source: Apple Support

End the Call

Once you're finished FaceTiming, you can tap the red button to end the call.

FaceTime - Source: Apple Support

FaceTime – Source: Apple Support

How to Answer an Incoming FaceTime

If someone calls you and would like to FaceTime, the screen will look like the one below. If you're still in your bathrobe and would rather not FaceTime at the moment, simply tap “Decline.” If you're ready for a FaceTime call, tap “Accept” to start the call.

FaceTime - Source: Apple Support

FaceTime – Source: Apple Support

How to FaceTime on a Mac Computer

To use your Mac to FaceTime another Apple user, you need a Mac with OS X Lion 10.7 software or later and a reliable internet connection. If you've got those, you're ready to FaceTime on your Mac!

Step 1: Click on the “Finder” icon at the bottom of your Mac home screen.

FaceTime - The Mac Finder icon

FaceTime – The Mac Finder icon

Step 2: Click on the “Applications” tab.

FaceTime - The Mac Applications tab

FaceTime – The Mac Applications tab

Step 3: Find the FaceTime application on the list and double click on it.

FaceTime - Click on FaceTime App

FaceTime – Click on FaceTime App

Step 4: Next, enter the email address or phone number of the person you want to call when the app opens. If you also have an iPhone and the person is saved in your Contacts app, you can enter their name, and it should appear. Then click “Video” to start the FaceTime call.

FaceTime - Source: Apple Support

FaceTime – Source: Apple Support

Step 5: Time to chat! Once you're connected on your Mac, you can use the same features we mentioned above to mute, unmute, and end the call. You won't be able to “flip” the camera, though. That feature is only available on iPads and iPhones.

FaceTime - Source: Apple Support

FaceTime – Source: Apple Support

How to Group FaceTime

A group FaceTime allows you to video chat with up to 32 people at a time. Now, that's a party! It's perfect for book club or catching up with friends and family. To use Group FaceTime, you need iOS 12.1.4 or later on your iPhone or iPadOS for an iPad. Group FaceTime is available for the following devices:

  • iPhone 6s or later
  • iPad Pro or later
  • iPad Air 2 or later
  • iPad mini 4 or later
  • iPad (5th generation) or later
  • iPod touch (7th generation)

Step 1: To FaceTime with multiple people, go ahead and start a FaceTime call with one person using the steps outlined above.

Step 2: Once you're connected to the individual, swipe up from the bottom of your screen to the top. The screen below should appear. Tap “Add Person.”

FaceTime - Adding people to a group call

FaceTime – Adding people to a group call

Step 3: Type in the person's name you want to add to the FaceTime call. You can type in multiple names if you want to add several people to the call at once.

FaceTime - Type the person's name to add them

FaceTime – Type the person’s name to add them

Step 4: Tap on their name and then tap the blue plus sign on the right, and they will be added to the FaceTime call.

FaceTime - Tap and add to Group FaceTime

FaceTime – Tap and add to Group FaceTime

There you have it! Now you're a FaceTime pro.

Written By

Taylor Shuman

Senior Tech Expert & Editor

For over five years, Taylor has been writing, editing, and researching products and services covering topics such as senior care and technology, Internet and the digital divide, TV, and entertainment, and education. Her research on media consumption and consumer behavior has been… Learn More About Taylor Shuman

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