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Video chatting with family: How to use FaceTime, Skype, or Google Hangouts to keep in touch

Christopher Breen | Jan. 2, 2015
You can't always be with the ones you love, particularly over the holidays. Thankfully, free video chat services get us closer than a quick phone call.

skype chat

Traveling over the holidays is difficult. Roadways and airports are crowded, the weather can be uncooperative, and trucking a family across country may exceed your budget. Much as it pains you, it's often easier to just stay home. But that doesn't mean that you have to entirely lose touch with your friends and family during these special days. While a phone call is a fine way to issue a quick "Hey, fruitcake, thanks!" to a not-entirely-beloved second-cousin, when you want something stronger and more heartfelt, turn to video. It's a great way to show-and-tell and, better yet, it can be done for free. Here's how.

Getting some FaceTime
If you have a reasonably modern iOS device (running a just-as-reasonably-modern version of iOS) your have the tools you need to make and receive FaceTime video calls. Specifically, you must use an iPhone 4 or later, iPad 2 or later, iPad mini, or iPod touch 4th generation or later.

To configure FaceTime on an iOS device tap Settings > FaceTime and make sure the FaceTime switch is in the On position. On this screen you'll see any phone numbers and email addresses that can be used to contact you over FaceTime. (You can also choose how caller ID will display your information on a device you call.)

To place a call, tap the FaceTime app on the Home screen and tap on a contact or enter a name, email address, or phone number associated with someone's FaceTime ID. You'll see that you can place either a video or audio-only call just by tapping the appropriate tab.

On a Mac the FaceTime app is bundled with recent versions of the Mac OS. Unlike with the iOS version, all FaceTime configuration is handled directly within the FaceTime app. Just launch it and you should see the image captured by your Mac's built-in camera (or an attached webcam if your Mac lacks a camera.)

To access your FaceTime settings--including the associated Apple ID and contact numbers--choose Preferences from the FaceTime menu. To place a call, just enter a name found in the Contacts app, an email address, or a phone number associated with an Apple ID. As with the iOS version, you can place audio as well as video calls.

If you know the person you're calling has an iPhone, try using their phone number as the first point of contact as it will almost certainly work with FaceTime. Otherwise, if they're using some other variety of FaceTime-compatible device, strongly urge the people you wish to speak with to provide you with their iCloud (or .mac) email addresses. As long as they have FaceTime enabled you should be able to use that address to reach them.


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