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"FaceTime on an iPhone 5" Site
Type Video Calling Service
Launch Date June 24, 2010
Status Active
Product Line Application
Platform iOS
Website www.apple.com/ios/facetime

FaceTime is a videotelephony product from Apple, Inc. It was first developed for use with the iPhone 4's front-facing camera and later made compatible with all iOS devices with front-facing cameras, as well as Mac computers running OS X with Facetime or iSight cameras. In 2011, FaceTime introduced a front-facing and rear-facing camera on the iPad 2. Pioneered by Apple, FaceTime has revolutionized the concept of Voice over IP through its ease of use and compatibility. Recently, FaceTime was in the spotlight of ethical issues surrounding the lack of transparency from AT&T and its data charges. FaceTime also provides another platform where inappropriate "sexviding" and other pornographic material can be exchanged.


FaceTime was first announced on June 24, 2010; it was restricted to use over WiFi only. The app was initially only available on the newly released iPhone 4. At the release conference, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs mentioned that FaceTime would be an open video calling standard and would open up the standard for anybody to use. [1] As of March 2018, FaceTime is still a proprietary protocol. Many journalists posit that vendor lock-in gives Apple a business advantage and opening up the protocol would rid them of that advantage. [2]

Later in 2010, Apple announced the availability of FaceTime beta for its Mac computers. [3] The application was free and available to all users of Mac OS X version 10.6.6 or later.

Facetime for Mac was officially released in February 2011 and cost $0.99. [4] The FaceTime application is still $0.99 in the Mac App Store, although the app is now included with new purchases of Mac computers.

With the introduction of iOS 6, Apple announced that FaceTime calls would be available over cellular networks in addition to being available over WiFi. [5] Users can now make FaceTime calls on their iPhone's and 3G/4G-connected iPad's using their cellular network.

How It Works

FaceTime links to a user's phone number on their iPhone and an email address on all other supported devices. [6] Users can click the FaceTime icon in their iPhone contacts list to view individuals in their contacts who are registered with the service. Within the contacts list, there lie two different FaceTime functionalities. The first is a FaceTime audio call, which is a voice calling feature without video. The other is the FaceTime video. On other devices, users select a person to call from both their contacts or the FaceTime application itself.

During the duration of a FaceTime call, there is a button to end the call, switch cameras (front and back), a mute button, and a screenshot button. When receiving a call, users are presented with a call screen for iOS and can pick up or decline the FaceTime call. The screen will say FaceTime and have a different ringtone to alert the user that they are receiving a different type of call.

Different Uses for FaceTime

FaceTime has multiple uses stemming from the traditional video communication between amongst friends and family. FaceTime is most commonly used for collaboration between users that are separated by distance. For example, it is a tool primarily used for family and friends to connect, but companies also use it to interview potential employees. In addition, many songwriters in the music industry will have co-writing sessions over FaceTime if they are not in the same city. Songwriters are attracted to use FaceTime for this purpose because of the quality of FaceTime's video and audio. The quality provides the opportunity to actually write/play the song and for the users to stay in sync.

Supported Devices

  • iPhone 4 or later
  • iPad 2 or later
  • iPod touch (4th generation) or later
  • Mac with Mac OS X v10.6.6 or later[6]

Although FaceTime is not available to devices other than Apple, there is alternative video conference software to FaceTime that have a similar effect and ethical implementations such as Skype, Oovoo, Google Video Chat, Facebook Video Chat, WebEx which can be used on Mac and non-Mac devices.

Similar Platforms


Skype is a telecommunications application similar to FaceTime that specializes in providing video chat, voice calls, and instant messaging between computers, tablets, and mobile devices. Skype was developed in 2003, acquired by eBay in 2005 for $2.6 billion, and finally acquired by Microsoft in 2011 for $8.5 billion. The use of Skype requires a microphone and webcam for audio and video, as well as a keyboard for the instant-messaging feature. Skype-to-Skype calls are free of charge to the user, while calls to mobile or landlines are charged to the user's Skype account. As one of the first peer-to-peer video chat platforms on the web, Skype was a revolutionary service that allowed people to make international calls for free or at a negligible rate.[7]

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is a telecommunications platform launched in 2013 that similarly provides video chat, voice calls, and instant messaging between communication devices. Google Hangouts has gained prominence among companies for the use of business calls due to it screen tradeoff feature in group calls that automatically shows the screen of the person speaking while pushing other callers to the background.[8]

Ethical Implications

AT&T and Network Charges

Before the introduction of iOS 6, it was rumored that AT&T would start charging users for FaceTime over their 3G data service network.[9] After the introduction of the new software, AT&T revealed that FaceTime would only be allowed on their 3G network for customers on Mobile Share plans. [10] This distinction was called into question by several net neutrality watchdog groups, who then petitioned the FCC. [11] The FCC responded to these complaints, saying they would review the objections. [12] On November 8th, 2012, AT&T revealed that they would be expanding mobile network usage of FaceTime to users with LTE devices on tiered data plans, but other users would still need to be on Mobile Share plans. They also revealed that they would be rolling out FaceTime over cellular to customers on more data plans in the "near future" but did not specify further. [13]

Restricting this service puts the matter of ethics into question. If a service provider prioritizes the traffic of one application over the other, people will most likely not use the application that is restricted and find other means. In this case, Apple may lose customers who would have used FaceTime to other video chatting applications like Skype. Skype and several other services that provide the same video calling functionality of FaceTime, although not with the same integration into one's contacts, have been running on cellular networks before FaceTime was created. Unlike FaceTime, these services require users to download a separate application and have it running on the mobile device to receive calls.

Because of this hurdle to adoption, AT&T has used the argument that FaceTime, in particular, must be controlled differently in order to make sure their network does not get clogged with too much usage. Others, such as the net neutrality watchdog groups, argue that this is still against the laws of the FCC which try to promote competition and an open internet.

In contrast to AT&T's stance on FaceTime over cellular, its competition Verizon is not charging users extra or restricting FaceTime to certain plans. [14] Although users could switch if they want easier FaceTime over cellular, AT&T is still selling more iPhones than its competitors. [15]

Information ethicist Floridi states in "The Ethics of Information Transparency" (2007, pg 111) that there "may be a real need to disclose the ethical details of any process of information management." AT&T has not disclosed their specific reasons for choosing to restrict FaceTime, or at least have not proven their reasons to be legitimate to the press. As the power of large technology companies such as Apple and AT&T grows, they are more vulnerable to legal faults which can eventually call the attention of high-level government. It is likely that, as Floridi predicts, there will impending need soon for information and technology related organizations to release their processing information and other confidential information as they become more regulated by the government.

Inappropriate Use and "Sexviding"

With any video-chatting feature or technology, there will be those who inappropriately use this feature in profane and pornographic ways. FaceTime currently does not have any content filters. Teens can use Facebook to send “sex vids”, in which a person sends a sexual FaceTime video call to someone else. Furthermore, the FaceTime communications are not secure, so anyone can pick up your FaceTime call, including video, without you knowing it. [16]

Similarly, with FaceTime being a portable video chat service, there is the possibility of potentially confidential conversations occurring in unfavorable places. This disrupts the confidentiality of a conversation that two people are having when neither person are aware of who might be listening or watching in the background.

Banned Usage

FaceTime is not allowed in the United Arab Emirates due to their Telecom Regulatory Authority which restricts most person-to-person video contact. [17] iPhones that are sold in the UAE come with FaceTime locked and any IP address that is in the area does not allow for users to access FaceTime. This sometimes causes iPhones to be sold with FaceTime in the black market. Additionally, many people use a virtual private network to get past having an IP address from inside the UAE.

Protected Data

When users utilize FaceTime instead of other means of communication, they may be better off than not regarding how likely it is that their information from their calls is shared. Apple was one of the companies that contributed to the PRISM program that the United States government created which allowed them to gather personal data from citizens. Apple claims that it will not decrypt FaceTime messages, no matter what. They have received over 10,000 requests from local, state, and federal government agencies in a six month period ending May 31st, 2013. [18] FaceTime is one of the services, alongside iMessage, that has an end to end encryption, leaving no gaps for Government agencies to get the data associated with them. Therefore, making cellphone surveillance much more difficult. Apple has actively decided they will not create a loophole or decryption service to their products in any situation because it would put their users at risk of a data breach. FaceTime thus offers a service for those who want to be careful about their activities on their mobile phones to utilize innate and unsuspecting applications instead of using suspicious third-party applications.

Live Photos

If both users are operating on iOS 11 or later, there is a button for a user to press and take a live photo of the other user at any time. [19]This photo gets saved to the device of the user who took the photo; and when they click on it, they can hear and see anything that happened in the three seconds the "live photo" was taken. This has the potential to spread information that someone does not want to be spread. There is a feature in your settings on your phone that can turn this off, but many people do not know about this option and tend to allow these photos to be taken. If you are on a FaceTime call, even though you do get a notification if the other user takes a live photo, there is nothing you can do about it being in their possession at the moment [20]. The freedom people have to broadcast personal information becomes an issue if there is not trust between the two users.


  1. FaceTime Open Standard http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/06/08/urnidgns852573c4006938800025773c006633b-idUS168083514520100608 Retrieved 2012-12-09
  2. Hey, Apple, any progress on making FaceTime an open industry standard? https://www.appleworld.today/blog/2016/8/8/hey-apple-any-progress-on-making-facetime-an-open-industry-standard
  3. FaceTime for Mac http://news.softpedia.com/news/FaceTime-Comes-to-the-Mac-Download-the-Free-Application-Today-162095.shtml Retrieved 2012-12-09
  4. FaceTime Out Of Beta https://discussions.apple.com/thread/2763433?start=0&tstart=0 Retrieved 2012-12-09
  5. FaceTime over 3G http://www.theverge.com/2012/6/11/3078597/ios-6-adds-facetime-video-calls-over-cellular-networks Retrieved 2012-12-09
  6. 6.0 6.1 Using FaceTime http://support.apple.com/kb/ht4319 Retrieved 2012-12-09
  7. https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-skype-3426903
  8. http://en.yibada.com/articles/13790/20150216/google-talk-being-discontinued-users-instructed-switch-chrome-app-hangouts.htm
  9. AT&T may charge for FaceTime http://www.theverge.com/2012/7/17/3164208/at-t-may-charge-for-facetime-calls-over-3g/in/3024812 Retrieved on 2012-12-09.
  10. AT&T Allowing 3G FaceTime with Mobile Share http://www.theverge.com/2012/8/17/3250228/att-facetime-over-cellular-ios-6-mobile-share/in/3024812 Retrieved 2012-12-09.
  11. Groups Petition FCC http://www.theverge.com/2012/9/18/3351626/att-facetime-block-fcc-complaint-net-neutrality/in/3024812 Retrieved 2012-12-09.
  12. FCC Reviews Objections http://www.theverge.com/2012/9/25/3404938/fcc-julius-genachowski-att-facetime/in/3024812 Retrieved 2012-12-09
  13. AT&T loosens restrictions http://www.theverge.com/2012/11/8/3619034/at-t-loosens-facetime-restrictions-allows-iphone-5-users-to-video/in/3024812 Retrieved 2012-12-09
  14. Verizon Not Charging For FaceTime http://www.theverge.com/2012/9/12/3324002/verizon-facetime-over-cellular-no-additional-charge Retrieved 2012-10-09
  15. AT&T Sells More iPhones than Verizon http://money.cnn.com/2012/10/24/technology/mobile/att-iphone/index.html Retrieved 2012-10-09
  16. iPhone 4 problems: FaceTime privacy and “sexviding” are new issues http://blog.sfgate.com/abraham/2010/06/24/iphone-4-problems-facetime-privacy-and-sexviding-are-new-issues/
  17. Skirting forbidden FaceTime restrictions http://www.macworld.com/article/2042991/skirting-forbidden-facetime-restrictions.html Retrieved 25 April 2016
  18. Apple claims it can't decrypt FaceTime and iMessage data, details extent of government requests http://www.theverge.com/2013/6/17/4437272/apple-government-data-request-information-prism
  19. Take Live Photos of FaceTime Video Calls in iOS 11 (& Protect Yourself from Getting Recorded). https://ios.gadgethacks.com/how-to/take-live-photos-facetime-video-calls-ios-11-protect-yourself-from-getting-recorded-0178149/. Retrieved 2018-04-05.
  20. Disabling Live Photos https://ios.gadgethacks.com/how-to/facetime-101-take-disable-live-photos-during-video-call-0179042/