I underestimated FaceTime on Apple TV with tvOS 17, and it’s actually a pretty cool feature

Apple last month announced tvOS 17 for Apple TV at WWDC 2023. And while the update includes some great new features, like native VPN support, there’s nothing really exciting about it—at least that’s what I thought. tvOS 17 allows users to FaceTime directly from the TV, and while I underestimated this feature at first, I’m now in love with it.

Here’s how FaceTime works on Apple TV with tvOS 17

Now that the first public beta of tvOS 17 is out, I gave it a try and installed it on one of my Apple TVs (more precisely, the 2021 4K version with the A12 chip).

Instantly, I saw the FaceTime icon on the home screen and thought, “I need to check how this works.” Of course, Apple TV doesn’t have a built-in camera, so Apple’s solution was to port one feature from macOS to tvOS: Continuity Camera. When you open the FaceTime app on your Apple TV, your iPhone immediately asks if you want to connect it to your TV.

If you tap to connect, you’ll see an instruction to put your iPhone in landscape mode with the rear camera facing you. After that, your iPhone becomes the webcam for your Apple TV. It’s that simple (sometimes, because the feature is still pretty buggy in the betas and I often had to try pairing my phone multiple times before it worked).

When your iPhone is connected, the FaceTime app displays a very similar interface to the app on the iPad and Mac, with a column showing your contacts on the right side of the screen. From there, you can start a FaceTime call with anyone you like.

I underestimated FaceTime on Apple TV with tvOS 17, and it's actually a pretty cool feature

FaceTime on Apple TV uses the iPhone’s ultra wide angle lens by default. As a result, you can enable Center Stage so that the image is always focused on you, even when you move. There are also options to enable Portrait Mode and 3D Reactions. In short, it pretty much works as you’d expect.

This is one of the best features and I underestimated it

When Apple announced this feature at WWDC 2023, I thought, “Why should I FaceTime on my TV?” And even though Apple stressed that the feature is a great addition for corporate meetings, I still wasn’t convinced. But now that I’ve tried the feature a few times, I see myself using it more often. And here’s why.

First, having FaceTime on the big screen is really convenient. You are no longer limited to the small screen of the iPhone or iPad. Personally, I hate FaceTime from my phone because I have to keep holding it, so I always use my iPad or Mac for this.

Second, the fact that Apple TV forces you to use your iPhone’s rear camera to FaceTime results in dramatically better video quality. Video calls look so much better, especially when both people FaceTime with the iPhone’s rear camera. And having Center Stage is a huge addition, since I can walk around my bedroom or living room and other people can still see me.

And more importantly, FaceTime on Apple TV becomes much more engaging in some occasions, like when you’re with family or many friends and you want to FaceTime with someone. It’s so much more fun to do it on TV instead of a small screen. Or even when I’m alone, I can sit with my MacBook on the couch while talking to someone on my TV.


At the same time, there’s something weird about using FaceTime with an iPhone on Apple TV, and that’s the fact that you have to put your iPhone in front of the TV. Features like this and standby mode highlight the lack of an Apple accessory to place your iPhone horizontally.

There are certainly plenty of third-party accessories available that get the job done, but it’s strange to think that Apple just announced a number of features that require accessories that the company itself doesn’t have. And as my colleague Zac Hall wrote, tvOS 17 really shows that it might be time for Apple TV to have its own built-in webcam.

Learn more about tvOS 17

Another detail about FaceTime on Apple TV is that you can allow other people to use your TV to FaceTime on their own accounts. There is an option to scan a QR code on another iPhone to start a call on that TV. This, of course, requires an iPhone running iOS 17.

Other cool things about tvOS 17 include a redesigned Control Center that looks much better, the icon grid that now has six apps per row instead of five, new audio output options for the second-gen HomePod, and a new screensaver photographic. However, I’ve noticed some performance issues with this release, so keep that in mind before installing tvOS 17 beta.

tvOS 17 Apple TV VPN FaceTime

tvOS 17 is now available as beta software for Apple TV HD (2015) and later. The official launch is scheduled for this fall. More details on how to install tvOS 17 beta on your Apple TV can be found here.

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