Does FaceTime use data? (Hint: yeah, it does)

 Mint Fox on FaceTime over text: “Does FaceTime use data? (Hint: Yeah, it does)

Years and years ago, when a movie wanted you to know it took place in the future, it showed everyone making video calls. And now, anyone with an iPhone can use the FaceTime app to make video calls from pretty much anywhere. We still don’t have flying cars, but that’s a complaint for another blog. 

However, unlike regular phone calls and text messages, FaceTime and other video calling apps require your mobile data to work. This means if you’re calling friends on FaceTime regularly, you could be cranking through your data…if you don’t know the hacks. Luckily, we have a few insider tips for you, so you can still enjoy your friendly FaceTime convos without chewing through all your GB.

How much data does FaceTime use?

Cellular data screen highlighting FaceTime

Yes, the app uses mobile data, but does FaceTime use a lot of data? Well, that depends on what you consider a lot. On average, FaceTime uses just over 3MB of data per minute*, which adds up to about 200MB per hour. So if you do the math (or if we do), that means you can FaceTime for about 20 hours with 4 GB of data. But we know FaceTime isn’t the only thing you’re doing with your data. Streaming music, surfing the web, Google Maps and streaming video all require data, too. How much? Well, feel free to have a look at our other blog all about MB, GB, and how much data those other activities use.

It’s also worth noting that this is an approximation and your FaceTime data usage can vary a bit based on your device, network strength and usage settings. You can actually see how much total data FaceTime is using on your phone by going into your Settings menu and following just a few steps:

  • From Settings, select Cellular
  • Scroll down to FaceTime and select it to view the app’s total data usage
    • “Current Period” doesn’t automatically reset each month, so scroll to the bottom of the Cellular menu and select “Reset Statistics” to refresh this

You can also see how much data was used on just a single FaceTime call:

  • Open the FaceTime app and select “Recents”
  • Click the “i” next to the contact you spoke with via FaceTime
  • If this FaceTime call used your mobile data, the amount will be noted next to the timestamp of this call

How to reduce FaceTime data usage

There are essentially two ways to use less data when using FaceTime on your iPhone: make your calls over Wi-Fi or turn off video. Let’s start with Wi-Fi.

1. How to make FaceTime calls over Wi-Fi

The easiest way to use less of your data is to do most data-heavy things while connected to Wi-Fi. When you’re using the internet via Wi-Fi, it isn’t pulling from your mobile data allotment. Luckily, FaceTime knows this and prefers Wi-Fi as well. So if you’re connected to Wi-Fi when you make a FaceTime call, it will default to using your Wi-Fi connection. However, if your Wi-Fi becomes unstable, it will automatically switch to your cellular data to stay connected.

If you want to ensure FaceTime uses none of your cellular data, you can set it to only work via Wi-Fi: 

  • From Settings, select Cellular
  • Scroll down to FaceTime and toggle it off
    • Keep in mind, this means you won’t be able to make or receive FaceTime calls unless you’re connected to Wi-Fi.

2. How to turn off video on FaceTime

Mint Fox on FaceTime with video off

Yes, making an audio-only FaceTime call is essentially the same as making a regular phone call with your cellular minutes. But if you happen to be in a poor coverage area where you only have Wi-Fi, FaceTime may be your best option. Also, if someone calls you via FaceTime, you may want to take the call but not appear on video (to save data, of course…not because you’re in the same shirt you wore yesterday or anything).

  • While in an active FaceTime call, tap the screen to open the FaceTime menu 
  • Swipe the menu up to reveal more options
  • Select “Camera Off” to turn your camera off 
    • Of course, you’ll still be able to see the person you’re speaking to if their camera is on, and that will continue to use data. You may politely ask them to turn their camera off too, though. 

Audio-only FaceTime calls use approximately 2 MB of data per minute, so this will reduce your FaceTime data usage by about 30%.

3. Switch to a carrier that will help you easily manage your data (so you only pay for the GB you need)

We figured since you’re here reading our blog about data, we might as well explain why you should consider Mint Mobile for your premium wireless needs. Here we believe in total transparency, which is why we tell everyone that, contrary to popular belief, an Unlimited data plan isn’t your only option. So in addition to giving you tips on how to use less data, we may also recommend switching to a lower-priced phone plan based on your usage habits. You read that right: we’ll tell you to pay us less if you aren’t using all your high-speed data. But to be fair, our Unlimited plan is only $30/month*, so you could just stick with that and still be saving plenty over the other guys.

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*New activation & upfront payment for 3-month plan req’d. Taxes & fees extra. Addt’l restrictions apply. Unlimited customers using >35GB/mo will experience lower speeds. Videos stream at ~480p. See terms.