6 new FaceTime features I can’t wait to try with my friends – CNET

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Apple

Apple’s FaceTime video chat service has been around since 2010, but the global coronavirus pandemic has meant that video calling has become much more important for both business uses and staying in touch with friends and family. 

Not wanting Zoom to take all the success, Apple announced some key updates to FaceTime during its WWDC event. Some of the features do indeed go some way to make FaceTime more like Zoom, while other features — like SharePlay — are all new and could offer great new ways of virtually hanging out with friends.

Here are all the new features.

Generate invite link

Instead of calling another FaceTime user through the app, just as you’d make a phone call, you can now generate an invite link to send to your friends, family or colleagues. This allows you to put links in calendars and schedule them for later, rather than having to set up the call when the meeting begins. 

It also allows for…

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Screenshot/Apple

FaceTime with Android and Windows

FaceTime has previously only been available to iPhone or iMac users, but using the invite links you can now have people on Android or Windows join the call. Once you’ve sent them the link they’ll be able to join via their web browser on whatever device they’re using. Apple says the calls will still be end-to-end encrypted. 

Improved audio 

A new audio isolation function will be available in the FaceTime app which significantly help cut down on background noise. Apple showed a demo in which a person was using a noisy leaf blower behind the person on the call, but when the new isolation function was activated, only their speech could be heard. It certainly seemed impressive, and great for taking calls in noisy locations, although how it fares in real life remains to be seen.

The flip side of the coin is an improvement to spatial audio, which aims to use 3D audio processing to capture more of the environment around a speaker and help it seem like they’re in the room with you.

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Screenshot/Apple

Portrait mode for FaceTime

Using the depth-sensing cameras on the iPhones, iPads and recent iMacs, when you use FaceTime you’ll be able to have an attractively blurred background you on your FaceTime calls. Zoom offers a similar feature, but it’s only software-based, so it’s possible we may see an improvement in how well you’re “cut out” of your background in Apple’s version. 

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Screenshot/Apple

SharePlay 

SharePlay allows you to watch movies or listen to music totally in-sync with your friends and family over FaceTime. Say, for example, you want to watch Shrek with your friends (because why wouldn’t you). SharePlay would allow the movie to begin on both your devices (iPad, iPhone, Mac or Apple TV) at exactly the same time, mimicking the experience of watching it together in the same room. Both parties on the call can pause and rewind whatever you’re watching and you can AirPlay the film to your Apple TV using your phone or iPad just for the FaceTime call. 

It works with iTunes and Apple Music, along with HBO, TikTok, Disney Plus, Paramount Plus and others as initial partners. 

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Screenshot/Apple

Group FaceTime grid view

With friends and family scattered all over the place, group FaceTime calls are an important feature. The new grid view places everyone on the call on the screen, making it easier to see who’s on, with the active speaker being highlighted. It looks much the same as Zoom’s Gallery view and will be a welcome addition to anyone trying to negotiate family group calls or team meetings over FaceTime.  

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