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How much data does FaceTime use?

Back in 2010, the FaceTime app changed the way we communicate by allowing us to make high-quality video calls to and from Apple devices – all through an internet connection. These days, FaceTime is available on any iOS device with a front-facing camera, and even Apple Watches for FaceTime audio calls, meaning there are even more ways to stay in touch. But with video calls notoriously greedy when it comes to mobile data, how much data is FaceTime really using, and how can you reduce your data usage? Read on to find out if FaceTime is ringing up a hefty bill.

How much data does FaceTime use?

Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t provide any official figures for FaceTime data usage, however there is plenty of debate and estimates thrown around online. Based on estimates, FaceTime generally uses around 3MB of data per minute of use, meaning an hour-long call could use around 180MB of data. Here is a detailed breakdown of Facetime’s data usage:

Minutes on FaceTime Mobile Data Used
1 3MB
10 30MB
30 90MB
60 180MB

Estimates only. 

Data usage will also depend on a variety of other factors, including what phone you use, your service provider and the settings you have on the app itself. As a result, it may be best to keep an eye on your Facetime habits to ensure you don’t accidently go over your plan’s data usage.

How do I reduce my FaceTime data usage?

The Low Data Mode function for iOS restricts your device’s background activity so you use less mobile data. By turning ‘Low Data Mode’ on, your FaceTime video bitrate is optimised for a lower bandwidth, meaning that your video calls require less mobile data, but you may have to sacrifice video quality as a result.

Low Data Mode can be switched on separately for mobile data and Wi-Fi. For mobile data, open your Settings app and select ‘Mobile’, then ‘Mobile Data Options’. There you should see Low Data Mode, which you can switch on and off. To reduce data usage on your Wi-Fi network, select ‘Wi-Fi’ in your Settings app. Tap the ‘i’ button next to the Wi-Fi network that you’re connected to, and turn on Low Data Mode.

How can I check FaceTime’s data usage?

woman using phone

You can check how much data FaceTime uses by selecting ‘Mobile’ in the Settings App. As you scroll down, there should be a number underneath each app which indicates how much data the app is using. You can turn off FaceTime’s mobile data usage completely by switching the toggle to ‘off’.

To check the amount of data used for an individual FaceTime call, select the ‘Recents’ tab in your phone app. Scroll down until you find the call that you want to check (it will have FaceTime Audio or FaceTime Video under the name of the person you called), and tap the ‘i’ symbol next to it. You should then see the details of the call, including the duration and the amount of data used, giving you an idea of how much data your (hopefully daily) phone calls to mum uses.

Does FaceTime use mobile data when connected to Wi-Fi?

When you’re connected to Wi-Fi, FaceTime videos and calls should not use your mobile data. However, if your Wi-Fi connection is not strong enough, your device may use Wi-Fi Assist for iOS. If Wi-Fi Assist is enabled on your phone, then your phone automatically activates your mobile network when your W-Fi connection is too weak or slow. This may mean that FaceTime continues to use mobile data even when you’re connected (or think you’re connected) to Wi-Fi.

How can I turn off Wi-Fi Assist?

For iOS, Wi-Fi Assist is on by default; you can disable it under ‘Mobile Data’ in your Settings app. Scroll down and toggle the Wi-Fi Assist switch to turn it on or off.

Can you use FaceTime without mobile data?

The FaceTime app requires an internet connection, meaning you need to either use mobile data or be connected to a Wi-Fi network to make FaceTime audio or video calls.

What’s the deal with FaceTime and data usage?

Becoming one of the more popular options for when you want to call friends and family, FaceTime can be a culprit if you’re consistently going over your data limit. While you can always sacrifice video quality and switch to Low Data Mode (or switch to an unlimited data plan), keeping an eye on your FaceTime usage can also keep you from ending up with a hefty phone bill, which is something you’ll definitely want to talk about.

Photo credit: MichaelJayBerlin/, Little Pig Studio/

Original Author: Eliza Parry Okeden

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