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How to Make Free WiFi Calls on Your iPhone with FaceTime

David Pogue

You took the first step — buying technology. Now all you have to do is master it. We’re here to help, with tips and tricks you may have missed. If you know them already — well done, guru! If not, there’s no better time to start learning than right now.

Skill Level: Beginner

You might imagine that, on the great timeline of Apple technologies, audio calling would have arrived before video calling. But no; free Internet audio calls didn’t come to the iPhone until iOS 7.

And it’s a big, big deal. Video calling is neat and all, but be honest: Don’t you find yourself making phone calls more often? Video calling forces us to be “on,” neatly dressed and well behaved, because we’re on camera. Most of the time, we’re perfectly content (in fact, more content) with audio only.

And with FaceTime audio, the call is free. These calls don’t eat into your cellphone minutes and aren’t transmitted over your cell carrier’s voice network; instead, these are Internet calls. 

When you’re in a WiFi hotspot, they’re completely free. When you’re not, your carrier’s data network carries your voice. Use FaceTime audio a lot, and you might even be able to downgrade your calling plan to a less expensive one. 

Sold yet?

All right: Here’s how to make a free Internet voice call.

How to Make Free WiFi Calls on Your iPhone with FaceTime

(Apple)

You start out exactly as you would when making a video call, as described earlier. That is, you can start from the FaceTime app, the Contacts app, the Phone app, Messages, and so on.

In each spot that FaceTime is available, you get a choice of two types of calls: Video and Audio. (In Messages, if you tap the phone icon, you get a choice of two voice options: Voice Call and FaceTime Audio.)

When you place an audio FaceTime call, the other person’s phone rings exactly as though you’d placed a regular phone call. All the usual buttons and options are available: Remind Me, Message, Decline, Answer, and so on. 

Once you accept the call, it’s just like being on a phone call, too: You have the options Mute, Speaker, FaceTime (that is, “switch to video”) and Contacts. (What’s missing? The Keypad button and the Merge Calls button. You can’t combine FaceTime audio calls with each other, or with regular cellphone calls. If a cellphone call comes in, you’ll be offered the chance to take it — but you’ll have to hang up on FaceTime.)

Actually, it’s better than being on a phone call in two ways. First, you don’t have the usual lag that throws off your comic timing. And, second, the audio quality is amazing — more like FM radio than cellular. 

You’d be wise to force yourself to try out FaceTime audio calls. Whenever you’re calling another iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Mac owner, you’ll save money and minutes by placing these better-sounding free calls.

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Excerpted with permission from David Pogue’s iPhone: The Missing Manual, Seventh Edition from O’Reilly Media.