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Does Facetime cost money ?

Posted by Scott Golby
   
Does Facetime cost money ? (when used on an iPhone or iPad 3G/4G)
This is a complex question which explains why one wouldn't easily find an answer on Google. The way Facetime works has changed multiple times over the past 12 months which will easily confuse people I’m sure.
History
Before the iPhone5 & the current version of the software called iOS 6, the way Facetime worked depended on the device.
  • For the iPhone a short “call” was placed via the Mobile network to the other iPhone to see if the person you were calling was available, this used peoples Mobile Phone #. You then had a choice, answer as a regular voice call, or answer with Facetime. It then switched to WiFi for the video/sound data so it was “Free” from that point onwards. What wasn’t seen to the user was both phones were checking in the background “Do I have WiFi?” before presenting the Facetime option
  • Apple then added the option for your Apple ID to be used which opened up Facetime to WiFi only devices such as the iPad, iPod Touch & people using iPhones with mobile roaming turned off.  This gave more credence to the idea that Facetime was "Free".

Today with iOS 6 & 3G/4G Mobile Networks

With iOS 6 we now have the option of using Facetime via the faster 3G/4G networks -  So does it cost money ?  There are many options...

  • The first thing to check is do you have iOS 6 on your iPhone (Settings --> About --> Version).  If you are still using iOS 5, things work pretty much as above in the History section.
  • If you are indeed using iOS 6 you have some options & your phone company has some options
    • Your phone company may or may not choose to allow Facetime over their network, if they're blocking it, then it's still WiFi only so Free
    • Some phone companies are charging extra to use Facetime, pushing people to Tethering plans, clearly that's a $$$ cost
    • You have the option to turn on/off  Facetime over 3G/4G with the setting "Use Mobile Data" or "Use Cellular Data" (see the screenshot below) - so you have the choice between Free & $$$
    • If you are near a WiFi the phone will still hand off like before and not run up your mobile bill, figuring out if that's happening can be a little bit tricky
    • Some Telstra info on iOS 6

Short Answers

  • If you have a WiFi only device Facetime is still "Free"
  • iPhone (or iPad with 3G/4G), with iOS6, and set Facetime - "Use Mobile Data" to Off = Free
  • iPhone iOS6, "Use Mobile Data" = On = Data Usage if not near WiFi (potential $$$)
Data Usage
Facetime & any Video application uses a lot of data, so how much it's going to cost depends on your data plan & how careful you are with usage.  Our recommendations
  • If you have an Unlimited Data plan then there likely to be no problem
  • If you have a 2GB / 5GB plan - keep an eye on your usage as you try it
  • Less than 1GB (eg 200MB per month) - we would recommend turning off Facetime over 36/4G (see graphic below)

Click for a larger image

iPhone Review Posted in App Reviews, Tips & Tricks
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