Teaching iPhone Voice Call and FaceTime use to Explorers

Smartphones for All book subchapter: Teaching Voice Call and FaceTime use. It was interesting how caller ID spoofing has changed how everyone manages voice calls.

What’s the best way for an Explorer to use the iPhone’s phone feature? How should they use voicemail? How should an Explorer respond to a phone call they don’t recognize? When is it appropriate to do a FaceTime video call? What about FaceTime audio?

The answer to these questions is going to vary for every Explorer. For example, I have had older Explorers phone me without texting first. That’s a social faux pas now, but it’s something older neurotypicals expect. It’s may be hard for some Explorers to understand that it’s okay to phone Grandma without texting first, but socially incorrect to “cold call” a coach or friend. Likewise some Explorers may find phone calls easier than texting and some will actually check voicemail⁠1. Phone management training and setup should be personalized.

I think most Explorers who are comfortable with texting will adopt the current social norm of using “cold calls” for urgent or emergent communication and using texting for brief communications or voice call preparation. I also think most will not use voicemail, but will instead text if a “cold call” goes unanswered.

For our Explorers this did not require formal training, it was a social norm they learned from siblings and friends. Training may be relatively easy when needed however. A somewhat older Explorer used to routinely “cold call” me. I knew he did well texting so I sent his calls to voicemail and replied by text message. After two to three repetitions he switched to texting me instead.

We also haven’t had to teach our Explorers that voicemails are usually ineffective; they don’t like to leave them. It may be useful to teach an Explorer to use text messages in place of voicemail if an urgent phone call is not answered.

Since don’t expect our Explorers to listen to voicemails we haven’t taught voicemail management. It could be helpful if an Explorer responded to an employer’s voicemail, but most employers know that voicemails are not reliable ways to communicate.  Of course individual circumstances vary, some Explorers will benefit from teaching and reinforcing voicemail management.

Spam and malicious phone calls are a problem for Explorers — as for everyone. The ability to fake caller IDs (“spoofing”) has been a boon to pests and criminals. Obsolete regulations on marketing calls to cell phones⁠2 and “do not call” registries are largely ineffective now. The first defense here is phone configuration and carrier screening apps as discussed earlier in this chapter.

The next defense is teaching suspicion. This is a lifelong learning project for Explorers across the material and immaterial worlds. I’d love to see “suspicion” as a formal curriculum in special needs education! In this book I address suspicion education in every communication method, from voice calls to texting to email to Facebook. In the case of voice calls the rule to teach is fairly simple: If you the incoming call doesn’t show the name of a Contact then tap the red disconnect icon or push the power button once⁠3. It’s helpful that many Explorers won’t answer a cold call anyway, and many won’t check voicemail. It’s also helpful that the most vulnerable Explorers don’t usually have many financial resources under their control; criminals typically prefer vulnerable elders.

The value of FaceTime video calls will vary by Explorer’s situation. They may be very helpful for an Explorer living independently as a way to help with activities of daily living or as a social connection. They may be less interesting for an Explorer living at home.

General FaceTime video (and audio) call initiation is somewhat complex, but an iPhone “Favorite⁠4” can be setup to initiate a FaceTime video (or audio) call. In this case an Explorer need only learn which “Favorites” are audio versus video calls. Most will learn this quickly on their own⁠5. Answering a FaceTime audio or video call requires a bit of practice but most Explorers will learn this quickly. As with a voice call a FaceTime call will typically be preceded by a text message — so Explorers will be prepared to respond.

FaceTime audio calls are rarely used; I think they are underused. They only work between Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, Mac) but the sound quality is much better than cellular sound quality. They don’t incur international charges and they use very little data, a FaceTime audio call to Canada costs no more than a FaceTime audio call next door. They can be setup as a Favorite and, when preceded by a text message, they are easy to answer.

1 At least at first. As discussed below most modern voicemails are spam so Explorers will learn to ignore them.

2 These regulations were from an era when it cost money to receive a phone call and most people used landlines most of the time. So mobile phones were treated differently from landlines. They really are obsolete in an era when few people have landlines and voice call reception is typically bundled in a flat fee.

3 Tapping once makes the call ‘disappear’ but the caller spends time “ringing” before voicemail is available.

4 It is a bit odd that “Favorites” are part of Phone setup but also apply to FaceTime. A practical UI compromise! When FaceTime is used this way the FaceTime app icon can be hidden away.

5 The phone works better if a single person’s Contact holds email, sexting phone number and FaceTime information. In some cases you could consider splitting them up to be more recognizable but I don’t recommend this.