Handy Tip: Facetime Audio Calls in iOS7

One of the handy features in Apple's new iOS7 is Facetime Audio, which allows you to call other iPhone users over VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) instead of using your call allowance. 

First the simple instructions:

 

  1. Go to Contacts, and select the person you wish to call.
  2. Tap the telephone icon next to Facetime.
  3. You should now hear a VoIP-style dialtone rather than the usual phone one. Otherwise it's just like a normal phone call.
  4. The person you're calling can receive the call as they normally would.
  5. The quality of the call will depend on the strength of the network. Be warned that all telcos prioritise voice traffic over data traffic.

This of course is not a revolutionary new concept. VoIP is very common, and there are already plenty of apps that provide it, the most famous being Skype and Viber. Apple's inclusion of it is not a wondrous new feature, but more on par with the inclusion of the flashlight app. Millions of users already used a 3rd party flashlight app, but now that it is included by default, you can be sure that many millions more will quickly learn to find it indispensable. A similar point can be made about iMessage, which popularised a pre-existing capability by embedding it by default.

So it may turn out with Facetime Audio. It has been easy to make data-based calls for a very long time now, and ten of millions of people do so. But there remain many times more users who're too shy or otherwise reluctant to try it. I still come across many iPhones that have almost no 3rd party apps installed. There's a persistent assumption - often justified - than any service purporting to be free must have a hidden catch.

Naturally, the 'hidden' catch here is that VoIP calls use data. Any calls you make will use up your data allowance. Apple estimates that a 10 minute VoIP call uses about 6Mb of data, though this varies slightly based on network conditions. On the other hand, if you utilise Wifi, it will cost you nothing. And yes, nothing really means nothing, even calling overseas, or from overseas.

The other catch is that the person you are calling must also have iOS7 installed, otherwise it won't work. iOS7 is available on the iPhone4 and above. If that is a problem, then we encourage you to try out any of those third party apps, such as Skype and Viber. These can be used to call any platform, so long as they have the app installed.