Apple will open FaceTime calls to individuals using Android and Windows devices for the first time to connect more people with the video-calling app.
The company announced the change and numerous other updates to FaceTime at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) this week. Apple plans to make the FaceTime update available this fall with new iOS, iPadOS and macOS versions.
Apple executive Craig Federighi said Apple device owners will be able to send FaceTime links to have Android and Windows users join a call through their browsers. However, Windows and Android users will not be able to start a FaceTime call.
Another change, called SharePlay, lets FaceTime participants listen to music, watch a video or share their screens during calls. The feature will allow people to collaborate while working in apps.
Video meeting apps like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex have screen sharing. But they do not offer the entertainment app integrations Apple has planned. Federighi said Disney+, ESPN+, HBO Max and others are integrating SharePlay into their apps.
FaceTime will also gain features to eliminate noise, making it easier to hear a speaker and blur the background behind a call participant. In addition, Apple introduced a grid view for FaceTime group calls, letting participants see more attendees at once. These features have become staples of video conferencing during the pandemic.
Beyond FaceTime, Apple discussed several upcoming collaboration improvements. Live Text -- coming to iPhones, iPads and Macs with their respective OS updates -- will let people capture text from pictures. For instance, a person could snap a picture of a whiteboard after a meeting, convert the notes into text and copy and paste it into a document or email. Federighi said the feature works on photos, screenshots and images from the web. Microsoft offers similar capabilities with its Lens app.
Apple announced improvements to its messaging app, Messages, as well. The company will highlight content that workers share in Messages. For example, if an employee receives an article from a co-worker, that article would appear in a "Shared with you" section in the Apple News app. A shared photo would likewise appear in Apple's Photos app. Apple said the feature will help people find content that might get buried under other messages.
Mike Gleason is a reporter covering unified communications and collaboration tools. He previously covered communities in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts for the Milford Daily News, Walpole Times, Sharon Advocate and Medfield Press. He has also worked for newspapers in central Massachusetts and southwestern Vermont and served as a local editor for Patch. He can be found on Twitter at @MGleason_TT.