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Does Facetime Use Data? How Much?

Posted by Jamie on March 12, 2018

As someone who seems to constantly use WiFi, I am somewhat in the dark as to how much data a particular app uses. So when a TechJunkie reader contacted us to ask whether Facetime uses data, I took it as an exercise to educate myself as well as you loyal readers.

Facetime is one of the most popular parts of iOS. It is slick, usually very good quality and makes it simple to set up a call. Why just use voice when you can Facetime? Why use another app when Facetime works well? The only time I don’t use it is if I’m using my Android phone or talking to someone who isn’t on iPhone. For everything else there is Facetime.

Does Facetime use data?

So does Facetime use data? If you use it while connected to WiFi it uses data but not cell data. If using 3G or 4G, it uses cell data. That’s fine if you still lucky enough to have unlimited data as part of your cell plan. For the rest of us who have a data cap, it is helpful to know what uses data and how much.

Facetime should default to using WiFi when in reach of a network it is a member of. For all other times it will use cell data.

How much data is Facetime using?

Exact data usage depends on the call but on average, a ten minute Facetime to Facetime video call will use approximately 40MB of data. That data can increase depending on whether you are using a 3G or 4G connection or whether you are using just audio or video too. Facetime over 3G uses less data as the overall quality is lower. A 4G Facetime call will use more data because it is capable of higher call quality.

Video will obviously use more data than pure audio.

To find out exactly how much a Facetime call has used, try this:

  1. Navigate to the Facetime app.
  2. Select the call you want to check and tap the ‘i’ icon on the right.
  3. The data used appears on the next screen close to the top.

You should see the data in the call details underneath the profile picture. The data will include whether it was an incoming or outgoing call and now long it lasted. The data used will be in brackets next to the time. You will need to identify whether this data used WiFi or cell data as the Facetime app does not specify which is which.

You can also go to the Cellular page in iOS if you want to isolate cell data from WiFi data.

  1. Navigate to Settings and then Cellular.
  2. Select Facetime from the app list and you should see how much cell data the app has used.
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the Facetime page to see for what period that data is being counted.
  4. Select Reset to begin the counter again if you want to.

The data collection part of the app counts the amount used since the phone was last rebooted or the collection counter was reset. It does not manage itself or reset every month when your data allowance resets. If you want to keep track of your monthly usage, you will need to manually reset the counter. It is a bit laborious but it is the only way I know of to accurately track Facetime data usage from month to month.

Force Facetime to not use cell data

Whenever you are in range of a WiFi network you can log into, iOS should automatically switch data to WiFi rather than use cell data. This doesn’t always seem to work. You can force Facetime onto WiFi by turning off cell data. You will need to turn it on again if you need to use Facetime while away from WiFi but can help preserve your cell data at all other times.

  1. Navigate to Settings and then Cellular.
  2. Scroll to Facetime and toggle it to off.

This is a permanent setting to you will need to remember that you have disabled cell data when you’re in town or need to use Facetime when not attached to a wireless network.

Facetime does use data and the exact amount depends on whether you are using 3G, 4G, audio or video. Now you know how to check data usage for yourself, you can quickly build a picture of exactly how much data you use and whether that is made up of WiFi or cell data.

Know of any other ways to see how much data Facetime is using? Know of any other neat ways to manage data allowances? Tell us about them below if you do!

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