Apple is adding a new core functionally to its famous proprietary messaging app FaceTime.

Although it won’t be available until iOS 12 rolls out in Fall 2018, Apple users will soon be available to FaceTime up to 32 participants in a single call – revealing the company has big interests in video group calls.

Apple now allows up to 32 participants in group FaceTime

Although it’s unclear whether or not Apple users actually need to call up to 32 participants at the same time, the group call feature proves that video calls are increasingly getting more social.

On that matter, HouseParty’s recent hit proved that group video calls are trendy : it exposed a lot of interest in that area, mixing SnapChat-like features (such as adding friends) with more traditional video calls features.

Houseparty’s success (more than 5.000.000 downloads so far) also proved that video chat has become widespread with the advent of 4G networks and higher capacity smartphones : the app only allows for up to 8 participants for now.

Source : HouseParty

How to place a Group FaceTime call in iOS 12 :

Based on what Apple recently announced, Group FaceTime will adopt a tiled interface allowing for an intuitive group video call experience.

Obviously enough, Group FaceTime will be restricted to Apple products and thus available on IPhone, IPad and Mac computers.

On that matter, AppleInsider recently released a hands-on video on how to use the new FaceTime.

By the way, Apple users will be able to place a group call from either the Messages App or the FaceTime App.

Group FaceTime from an Iphone or Ipad

  1. First, open FaceTime on an iOS12 Iphone or Ipad.
  2. Click the top right “+” button.
  3. Enter the names or numbers of up to 32 people.
  4. Tap Video or Audio to place your call.

Group FaceTime from Messages App

  1. First, open Messages.
  2. Tap on an existing group conversation or create a new one.
  3. Tap the participants at the top-center of the screen.
  4. Tap FaceTime.

Joining a Group FaceTime call

  1. Open your Messages app
  2. Select the right group conversation
  3. Click the chat popup
  4. Tap “Join”

Source : MacRumors

Animojis and Memojis join the FaceTime party

After being introduced with the Iphone X, Animojis and Memojis are also joining the new FaceTime group call feature – meaning that you can play with your looks while chatting with friends.

Source : Apple Insider

Besides the original Animojis, you’ll find four new characters to play with : Koala, T-Rex, Tiger and Ghost.

Lastly, Memojis (an animated avatar of yourself) will also be available during video calls.

Are there any Group FaceTime alternatives ?

Let’s face it : group video calls aren’t new at all and there are many well-established alternatives, although they may not be as versatile or user-friendly as the new FaceTime.

Here are a few well-known FaceTime alternatives that allow for video group calls :

  • Google Hangouts
  • WhatsApp
  • HouseParty
  • Skype
  • WeChat

Participants with a Google account can log in Google Hangouts and start a group video call for up to 10 people and join from any Android or iOS phone, tablet or computer.

The famous free messaging App (bought by Facebook in 2014) has just released a video group call functionality that allows up to 4 participants.

Besides, WhatsApp says that their video calls are end-to-end encrypted.

As mentioned earlier, HouseParty is both a social platform and a video call app that allows you to invite friends over for a video chat. It allows up to 8 participants.

There’s no need to introduce Skype. However, just know that the company offers free group video calls for up to 10 people. After the tenth, new participants can join via audio.

Available for free on both iOS and Android, WeChat allows for up to 9 participants for group video calls.

Could Apple FaceTime replace Skype & Hangouts for Business uses ?

Thanks to the 32 participants cap, Apple seriously raised its game when it comes to group chats and enterprise video calls.

Traditionally, business groups mostly rely on Google Hangouts & Skype for enterprise video calls and to communicate with multiple teams across continents.

Source : Google Hangouts

Because Apple has many users in the tech industry, allowing that many participants in a group call just gave Apple a strong competitive advantage to enter the group call market for professionals.

Regarding large companies, it’s unsure whether or not Apple will be able to provide the level of security and the higher enterprise-grade functionalities that other competitors provide.

For these larger companies, communication solutions such as Skype for Business, Cisco WebEx Teams, Slack and Microsoft teams will likely remain used, at least for now.

Compared to these solutions, the fact that FaceTime is restricted to Apple devices probably is the main hurdle that will hamper Apple’s take on the enterprise video call market : most solutions can now be accessed from a web browser and offer cross-platform solutions.

Should your company use Group FaceTime over other solutions ?

As we speak, Group FaceTime is still in beta and rumors now report stability issues and minor heat problems.

If we ignore these development issues, Group FaceTime can be a user-friendly and very versatile solution to be used in your workplace.

On that matter, the main factor that will affect your decision probably is whether or not your company uses Apple devices in its working environment.

Companies that use a mix of devices for their office environment will probably look elsewhere for cross-platform communication solutions.

By Paul Nguyen, Appaloosa contributor.

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