Skip to main content

From the Editor's Desk: There's no better time to drop FaceTime and use a cross-platform video calling app

FaceTime
FaceTime (Image credit: Rene Ritchie / iMore)

"FaceTime" has become a Kleenex-level generic word to describe making a video call on your phone, no matter the platform or what app people are actually using. Yet even in one of Apple's densest markets, the U.S., a full 50% of people can't use FaceTime at all — because they have an Android phone. There are great video calling apps that cross operating system boundaries — we just need to get people to use them, and stop perpetuating the idea that the inherently-restricted FaceTime is the default choice.

Now's the perfect time to give up any excuses and use a cross-platform video calling app.

I know people reading Android Central will probably be using an Android phone and don't have any chance of using FaceTime in the first place. But this is more about spreading the word to others out there, who we're all trying to communicate with right now more than ever, who have iPhones, iPads and Macs.

Perhaps this current situation with coronavirus, keeping so many of us at home far more than we would be otherwise, is a perfect reason for getting friends and family to download a different app and stop turning to FaceTime for all of their video calling. Because right now, there's no reason to make excuses for not trying another app — we should all be using video calls to help make up for a loss of in-person interaction. FaceTime works well, but the most important feature of any video calling app is being able to talk to everyone you need to — that means using something open to everyone.

Source: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

Google Duo is my personal choice because it's a dead-simple app that only does one thing: video calls. It works on Android, iOS and the web, with great video and audio quality that does a particularly good job of scaling to meet your bandwidth, and group calls up to 12 people (lower than FaceTime's 32, unfortunately). Because of its simplicity, it's an easy sell to anyone who currently enjoys FaceTime. You don't have to sign up for an account or have some confusing full-blown messaging app; Duo just becomes "the app you use to video call," and that's a good thing.

Of course there are other options that do have more features, like Houseparty. Plus full-fledged messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger (opens in new tab). And of course more traditional group call apps like Zoom (opens in new tab), Hangouts (opens in new tab) and Skype (opens in new tab). None of them are as simple and quick to pick up as Duo, but anything cross-platform that brings more people together is an improvement.

You can't really blame Apple for keeping FaceTime exclusive to its platforms — but you can stop using it.

Now you can't blame Apple too much for keeping FaceTime locked to its own platforms. Bringing FaceTime to Android and Windows would be a massive undertaking, for technical and legal reasons reasons at a minimum, and at this point nobody should be holding their breath for it to happen.

The experience FaceTime offers is pretty damn good, and the way it integrates straight into the iPhone's phone dialer, iMessage and macOS makes the video calling experience seamless. That streamlined experience would be diminished on other platforms. And let's be honest, Apple doesn't have any motivation for making it easy to stop using an Apple phone, tablet or computer while continuing to use its services — even if, in this case, it would improve communication options for people who have few good choices.

But we don't have to wait for Apple to change its tune and open FaceTime to other operating systems. We can take control of the situation by getting the people we talk to to use a different app. And right now, the most important thing is being able to talk to, and see, people while we stay at home. We should use any app or service that facilitates that.

-Andrew

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

60 Comments
  • Sorry, but it will never happen. For someone using FaceTime, switching to something else would be like a Windows 10 user switching back to DOS. It's that far ahead of everything else. Given the choice, they will FaceTime with those they can, and text or call anyone else. You're also ignoring that many with Android phones also have an iPad or MacBook or even an iPod and can FaceTime with those devices.
  • That's the thing it's not that far ahead. It's just so much simpler for an iPhone user to fire up FaceTime as it's right there tied into everything. Far less clicks than what it takes to go to the app store install duo and use it. Overall I agree tho if there is a time for people with Android devices to get an iOS user to install something else (if they don't already use WhatsApp) this is it.
  • Windows 10 to DOS? Give me a break ... it's installing and launching another app. And after you launch the app, the experience is very similar to FaceTime. Yes FaceTime has a big advantage in its seamless integration into iOS and macOS, but it's not lightyears ahead otherwise. Let's not be dramatic.
  • Windows 10 back to DOS??? You're grossly overstating! Honestly WhatsApp is integrated into the contacts on Android the same way Facetime is on the iphone. Apple won't let WhatsApp be integrated in the same way only because they don't want the competition. Facetime wouldn't stand a chance on a level playing field with WhatsApp & Apple knows it!
  • Seriously? That kind of overstatement is not terribly convincing. And to be honest, the idea that a couple of extra clicks on your phone is a good reason fall out of contact with someone is pretty hair raising. It's also pretty silly.
  • ...... Dafuq!!! That Analogy stinks to high heaven...facetime is not that far ahead at all...
  • That's not just inaccurate; it's credibility squashing. How can it be so amazing when it can't work on a majority of the phones in the world? I used Google Duo with folks on iOS and Android. I've even used Skype and it's way better than I remember it.
  • I agree but I think Apple have done a good job in convincing their consumers that they have no choice
  • I don't think it's really a convincing that there's no other choice ... it's just dead simple to use FaceTime, so why would anyone choose to look for something different?
  • Yes it's dead simple. Until you want to talk to someone who doesn't have an ianything. In that scenario it's just dead.
  • To be able to talk to a majority of the phone users out there, maybe?
  • I agree! It's like the new version of BBM, but we see how that worked out.
  • Lol just like getting people to switch to a different messaging app, not going to happen. 
  • very few people i know video chat, and when they do, they use Facebook Messenger
  • Bwahahaha, why would anyone drop FaceTime and use an inferior alternative? As an Android user who is switching back to iPhone in the summer (I will still be an Android user, it will not be my man platform anymore) and Android simply doesn't have anything to touch FaceTime.
  • Because I don't use FaceTime. Other than my point of it being so well integrated, what's so good about it? (I'm not being sarcastic I just want to learn here)
  • First, here is the disclaimer -- I hardly ever use Facetime and, when I do, I have to borrow a device from one of the family members. This said, as the dedicated IT person of the household, I can tell you that I had to deal with issues with Skype, Signal, WhatsApp, Viber, Microsoft Teams, Wire, Duo, etc. I *never* had to deal with the Facetime issues, that is despite the fact that Apple devices in the household outnumber everything else by ratio of 3. Just the other week, I had to borrow an iDevice, because nothing else was willing to work with the opposing side.
  • Some IT person. You should have been able to figure out any issues with Skype, WhatsApp or Duo.
  • > You should have been able to figure out any issues with Skype Yes, I should and I have, and those I haven't have been reported to Microsoft who is duly figuring it out to this day. Be it as it may, I have not run into problems with FaceTime on the phone, desktop or tablet. Now this is one person's experience, but y2whisper did ask.
  • Interestingly I use Duo, WhatsApp, Skype and even FB Messenger all without issues.
  • I'm curious to hear what problems with WhatsApp. It's simple, clean & just works.
  • @RoryBreaker It's own by Facebook. That's reason enough to avoid it. Plus, almost no one in the US using WhatsApp - and almost everyone is over having random friends recommend random extra messaging solutions to them. We're past 2011.
  • That's not enough for me. Also IG users don't seem to care. You might be in the minority here.
  • > I'm curious to hear what problems with WhatsApp. Most of what *I* had to deal with are the quirks of the WhatsApp desktop -- reliance on the phone being connected at the same time, limiting desktop instances to one, so the moment you open your laptop you are getting kicked out of your session on the desktop, no tablet app, etc. Admittedly, most of these are the first-world problems -- too many devices, but you did ask...
  • & how exactly is WhatsApp inferior?
  • Duo inferior to FaceTime? What kind of drugs are you on?
  • Well, if no one you care about has an Android phone, that's fine. If you decide on who to chat with based on which phone they have, that's . . . not great. For most people who place some value on human (emphasis on human) relationships, you use what works for the people you want to talk to.
  • People still use FaceTime? I thought even all iPhone users just used WhatsApp for everything these days? 🤷🏽‍♂️
  • Sarcasm? I don't know ANYONE who uses WhatsApp.
  • Not sarcasm at all. I honestly thought people stopped using FaceTime years ago. WhatsApp does it all and literally everyone I know uses it irrespective of their OS of choice. Not just everyone I know but pretty much everyone period including most businesses.
  • Here in the US not many use WhatsApp
  • Not many use WhatsApp in the US?????? You're gravely mistaken & couldn't be more wrong.
  • I wouldn't call these numbers anything more than some users like I said, in the US it does not have near the presence as it does in other locations. https://www.statista.com/statistics/814649/whatsapp-users-in-the-united-...
  • Maybe you should look at this from your same source. If that's "not many" as you said in your original message I don't know what else to tell you. https://www.statista.com/statistics/350461/mobile-messenger-app-usage-usa/
  • I know literally no one who uses WhatsApp. WhatsApp is a relative non-factor in the US. Even my friends in France use iMessage, Lol.
  • Don't confuse them with data. "No one" = not them and their friends.
  • I've never even downloaded it, nor has anyone ever asked me to so we could communicate. It's not a big thing in the states.
  • You're American, I take it? I believe dov is a fellow Britton... WhatsApp is pretty much ubiquitous here. Although you do have a very British name lol. Providing you province it Sm-EYE-th.
  • FaceTime is incredibly popular. And in many cases it's simply because it's set up and ready to use by default on iOS and macOS.
  • It also might be worth mentioning that you *do not* need to have a phone # to use Facetime. You can set it up on iPod Touch or iPad for someone who doesn't have her own phone quite yet.
  • Same goes for just about every other video messaging software out there. They all use data networks, not phone networks.
  • You just have to have hardware from one specific company. Pass. They will go the way of Blackberry, eventually.
  • For me WhatsApp is a great way to communicate with friends and family outside of the country. As far as here in the US FaceTime still rules. As an Android user that I am I give apple all the credit they deserve, Google has lack big time in that department, sorry guys.
  • There's absolutely no reason at all to drop FaceTime. If someone you want to communicate with doesn't/can't use it, just choose an app that you both can use and do so. This is not a zero sum situation.
  • Tell it to iMore, I don't even have a device that's capable of running facetime.
  • Android has a fragmentation issue with these types of services, due to Google's failed attempts to built out a good first-party messaging/calling solution. Apple does not have this issue. iMessage and FaceTime were "done right" out of the gate, and every iOS device has these, now, as well as every device that runs macOS. In addition to that, almost no iOS users run their devices with these services disabled. So, iMessage and FaceTime have very inflated usage in the US due to this consistency. Apple users will use the services because Apple is on record with a very pro-consumer privacy stance. On Android, the solutions are very fragmented, and every nerd is pushing their own solution. As a result, all of these services are very niche. You'll find tons of Android users who have never enabled Duo on their phones, or simply uninstalled it after purchase. Services like Viber (lol) were vogue in like 2012 for a short period of time, but people aren't flocking to that. There are simply too many Android users using too many dispirate solutions, while iOS users are running with Apple's solutions enabled out of the gate. In a market like the US, this makes FaceTime a more reliable solution than everything outside of Facebook Messenger... This is ESPECIALLY true during the "Stay at Home" era, when many people who have Android phones but iPads, MacBooks, iMacs, or iPod Touch devices have those on WiFi and are able to take FaceTime or iMessage during times they otherwise normally would not be able to. FaceTime has, at this point, an "inflated user base" as a result of so many people staying at home.
  • Cool... Not sure why you posted as a reply to me though lol.
  • Unless you know people who don't use Apple.
  • This argument is just plain stupid. If you use iOS and want to facetime another iOS user use facetime, if you want to facetime an Android user use WhatsApp or whatever. How childish being precious over an app! If you want to cross platform and talk face to face you don't have a choice. Unless you want to cut your nose off to spite your face. It's not the school playground 'my apps better than your app'. Some apps are better than others and folks will have their favourites but really, if you had a friend on a different platform would you just keep telling them how great your messaging app is rather than simply download one so you can both talk to each other? Cmon guys they all do the same thing!
  • As was mentioned Whatsapp is ubiquitous overseas. Here in the states Facetime rules for iPhone users just as iMessage does. It's not right or wrong that's just what it is. I do have a cousin that I was surprised was on Dou since he has a iPhone. When I called him on the app I found out he put it cause the wife is now on Android. Unless there is an absolute reason why they must have the app. Most iPhone users will blissfully just use what Apple provides. All the while looking at you funny wondering wht are you on Android and not iOS. Now myself on Android and my SE I have Whatsapp, Tellegram FB Messenger and a few others along with Duo. That's more cause too many people don't want to change.
  • I don’t see what the real problem is. Most people I know use FaceTime. I use FaceTime. Life is good. If they don’t use iOS then I use WhatsApp. That said I refuse to use google duo. People I know refuse to use google duo too. Why? Because we were the people that embraced google products in the past and have tried hard convince others to adopt googles messaging apps and have subsequently been burnt.
  • At this point, the one app I won't recommend is Zoom. They have made security related mistake after mistake, some of them appallingly careless. They have also made some rather misleading claims - I'd have less problem with an app that doesn't have encryption than one that says that their encryption is so strong etc when it's a joke.
  • I use an iPhone 11 Pro Max and have Duo, Facebook, Skype, with FaceTime and I never touch those other ones. Everyone I know uses FaceTime and there's no reason to ever switch to anything else.
  • FaceTime has "inflated user numbers" due to people with WiFi-only Apple devices staying home. Now, all the people who have iPhones but WiFi iPads, iPod Touches, or iMacs/MacBooks can use FaceTime, because they're almost always with their iOS/macOS devices, anyways... There is almost no reason to use anything else in the US. Apple has such high coverage with their communication services.
  • I'm in the US. I have a reason - I don't own Apple products.
  • If you're on IOS, and you're video-calling someone on iOS, use Facetime. If it's not all IOS, use something else. We do it. It's simple. A big article about nothing.
  • Nope. Still must use FaceTime, because 90% of the people I know have iPhones, and why should they want to install anything else.
  • The US is really in a bubble 🤐
  • This is not abnormal. BBM was so popular in Africa that RIM release a curve phone for those regions when they were phased out everywhere else. China has its own dominant messaging service. Europe has WhatsApp. Different services dominating different regions have been a thing since smartphones became a thing. iMessage and FaceTime are largely replacing BBM in the US, due to BB being replaced and no other platform having a comparable solution or UX to compete with it, currently.
  • And that stubborn ploy of exclusivity will send iPhone the way of BB. No one is in top forever. Ask BB.