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If you’ve got an older iPhone, your FaceTime calls just got better

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Apple didn’t announce the update, but it’s perfect for 2020

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A photo of the iPhone with the FaceTime icon Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

When Apple released iOS 14.2 last month, it didn’t mention that FaceTime calls would now be in 1080p for older iPhones. As MacMagazine notes, Apple has updated the product comparison pages of the iPhones 8, X, XR, XS, SE, and 11 (including the Max and Pro versions) to show that they now support FaceTime at 1080p over Wi-Fi, as opposed to before when they only supported 720p.

Calls made over cellular will still be at the lower resolution, but if you’re FaceTiming over Wi-Fi you may notice increased clarity after the update. That is, unless both callers had the iPhone 12, which has had 1080p FaceTime calls from the start (including over cellular if you’re on 5G).

My sister has an iPhone 8 with the update, so I called her up on FaceTime. I had her take a screenshot when we were calling over Wi-Fi, then had her switch to cellular and take another screenshot for comparison. For good measure, I also took screenshots on my iPhone 12 Mini to compare what it looked like on my end. You can judge for yourself if you can notice any differences.

Left: screenshot of a 720p call over cellular on the iPhone 8 | Right: screenshot of the 1080p call over Wi-Fi
Left: screenshot of a 720p call over cellular on the iPhone 12 Mini | Right: screenshot of the 1080p call over Wi-Fi

I’ve worked in video all my life, and the difference between the two is pretty striking to me, at least on her end. On my end the difference is a little noticeable, but I don’t think I’d be able to tell at a glance if the video coming from her phone was in full HD. Part of this could be that, while her phone is streaming to me at an increased resolution, the iPhone 8 still has the 7MP FaceTime camera, as opposed to the 12MP camera found on the iPhone 11 and later. Of course, whether you see a difference depends on how sensitive you are to changes in video quality, or how good your eyesight is.

Screenshot of the iOS 14.2 changelog that shows up when updating a phone
The iOS 14.2 changelog, with no mention of the FaceTime improvement

It’s unclear why Apple didn’t include this feature in the changelog for the update, given that it’s on the iPhone product and comparison pages. Nevertheless, it’s a nice bonus given that a lot of people will be celebrating the holidays over video call in order to stay safe. Mom and dad will be able to see the kids’ smiles a little better, and when you can’t be together you might be surprised at the difference a seemingly small jump in clarity can make.