Voice and Video options for iPhone Explorers

I’m writing a chapter on the least appreciated feature of an iPhone — voice communication. Had to throw in Video as well. I make a plug for using FaceTime audio to initiate calls to an Explorer — I think the better quality audio can help.

There are many ways to do voice and video “calls” in 2018. All of the big tech vendors have their own products and they don’t talk to one another. You can’t, for example, call a Microsoft Skype user with the iPhone’s FaceTime app. It’s like 19th century railroads, when every company used a different track design.

Not only do tech companies have their own proprietary technologies, they change them often. Nobody is sure what Facebook is going to do, and Google seems to have a different video call strategy every few months.

Happily Apple has been consistent and predictable. Apple supports “plain old telephone service” (POTS) and FaceTime Audio and Video. For most Guides and Explorers the practical approach is to stay with Apple’s options. 1 

There are many ways to make these connections on an iPhone. Phone.app handles telephone calls, FaceTime.app has a Video tab and an Audio tab. Contacts.app can be used to start a phone call, FaceTime Video call, or FaceTime audio call. The Phone.app Favorites list 2 has shortcuts for telephone audio, FaceTime Audio, and FaceTime Video.

Handling an incoming call is pretty much the same for all three; they all have the same default ringtone sound.

Most Explorers will need to learn to make and receive a standard telephone call. Some Explorers may find communication easier with FaceTime Video than with audio only, the video image provides additional communication cues 3.

FaceTime Audio is a special case. Few neurotypicals use it; most Explorers won’t need to deal with the added complexity. Still, it does does have some advantages. FaceTime Audio sound quality is much better than a traditional phone audio. There are no charges for international FaceTime Audio calls other than possible cellular data use — and it uses very little data. FaceTime Audio may be useful when phoning an Explorer, it will seem like a standard incoming phone call but the audio quality will be much better.


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1 It’s largely outside the scope of this book, but if an Explorer needed to do video calls to a relative with an Android smartphone or Windows computer you could install either Google Hangout or Facebook Messenger on the Explorer’s iPhone. I talk about Facebook Messenger in the Facebook chapter. In 2017 there were rumors Facebook would drop video call support however.

2 You might ask why does the Favorites list, which is a part of Phones.app, also support video calls? That’s a good question that I think Apple would prefer not to dwell on.

3 Our Explorers have little interest in FaceTime Video, but my elderly father did much better on Video calls than on plain voice calls. I suspect this was at least partly due to hearing impairment.


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