FaceTime is getting a load of new features — including the ability to work on non-Apple devices — which will help it better compete with cross-platform video chat apps such as Zoom and Google Meet.
Announced during WWDC2021, the most notable new feature of FaceTime will allow Android smartphone owners to join FaceTime calls. However, they will have to join via a web interface and not a standalone app, which will make it less appealing than Zoom et. al, which have dedicated apps for both Android and iOS devices.
To join a FaceTime call, meeting invites will be sent out as web link, which a participant can simply tap on to join.
However, that's not the only new thing coming to FaceTime. Here are the other new features.
Similar to many other video conferencing apps, FaceTime users will be able to share links, videos, and more during FaceTime chats, but with an added twist. SharePlay will let everyone on a video chat watch or listen to the same thing at once.
Examples shown during WWDC included streaming services such as Disney+, Twitch, NBA, HBO Max, and ESPN+. Apple said that the API will let other non-Apple apps use this feature.
So, for example, you and your friends can watch Cruella together; via AirPlay, you'll also be able to put your FaceTime call as a picture-in-picture window on your TV.
Additionally, SharePlay will let you share music playlists, and create a shared queue. Of all the features, we're most curious to see how SharePlay works.
To make group calls sound more lifelike, FaceTime will enable spatial audio, so that participants will seem like they're coming from different parts of your room. We imagine this will work better if you're using an iPad or something with a larger display.
Other audio improvements include voice isolation, which will better help tune out ambient sounds so that others can hear you clearly, and wide spectrum for hearing everything at once.
Portrait Mode and Grid View
You'll be able to better see people better in FaceTime. For starters, a new Grid View will put everyone on the call in a Brady Bunch-style grid, rather than having their windows floating freely.
Apple is also bringing Portrait Mode to FaceTime. Similar to the feature on the camera, this mode will blur out your background, so other FaceTime callers won't be as distracted by say, the pile of laundry behind you. It's a feature that can be found on most of the best video chat apps, so it's good to see Apple adding it as well.