Many New FaceTime Updates
Notwithstanding the addition of Group FaceTime in 2018, Apple’s video calling app has remained largely unchanged since it was first introduced back in 2010. This makes this year’s iOS 15 enhancements kind of a big deal, with Apple adding a potpourri of several cool and useful new features to make the experience more natural, comfortable, and lifelike.
Right off the bat, Group FaceTime calls can now finally be organized into a flat grid view, addressing a longstanding concern over the dizzying “floating heads” view that became even more frustrating as many more people have turned to FaceTime to stay in touch over the past year or so. While Apple offered a partial fix in iOS 13.5, it seems it’s taken until now for FaceTime’s developers to actually provide the same kind of grid view that’s commonplace in other video chat apps like Zoom and Google Meet.
The good news, however, is that it’s now here, and it looks like it will be a welcome change for those who found the old view either simply distracting or outright nauseating. It can be easily toggled on and off, and will provide a highlighted frame to indicate who’s talking, but otherwise, it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect a grid view to be — more function, less flash.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that Apple isn’t adding a lot of flair to FaceTime in iOS 15. It looks like we can expect both video and audio improvements to our FaceTime calls, with Apple now taking the Spatial Audio technology that it first brought to its AirPods last year and leveraging it to help spread out your friends’ voices so that they’ll feel more natural and like they’re coming from their relative positions on the screen.
Apple is also adding voice isolation and wide spectrum audio. Voice Isolation will use on-device intelligence to filter out background noise, so you can hear the other person much more clearly, while Wide Spectrum Audio will “pick up an entire symphony’s worth of sound,” so you’ll hear the person and everything around them in higher quality.
FaceTime in iOS 15 will also add Portrait Mode to the video calls, basically apply the same effects that have been available in the Camera app since iOS 10.1, and bringing them to your video calls, with a bokeh effect against the background.
While Apple didn’t mention it, this also sounds like the first step toward offering the kind of virtual backgrounds available in other apps like Zoom, but in a much more effective way than relying on colour matching. Considering that this is already available in the Clips app, we’re actually kind of surprised it’s not coming to FaceTime yet, but we’re fairly confident Apple is working on it.
Finally, Apple is also taking a big page out of the books of apps like Zoom by allowing you to create FaceTime Links that can be shared in various ways, making it easier to schedule Group FaceTime calls in advance.
What’s even more significant about this, however, is that these FaceTime Links can be used to join a call from any modern web browser.
That’s right, you’ll no longer be limited to making FaceTime calls with other Apple device users, which also means you won’t need to turn to other services like Zoom or Google Meet to keep in touch with your extended family and friends. Best of all, Apple promises that these calls will still be end-to-end encrypted, even when some participants are joining from a web browser. It’s been eleven years since Steve Jobs promised to make FaceTime an open standard, and while this still isn’t quite where we’re at, it’s still a big step that’s better late than never.