I love leaving FaceTime messages as much as I hate listening to voicemail

FaceTime screen on an iPhone
(Image credit: Shutterstock ID: 1680243655)

I haven’t left many FaceTime messages, but I already love them far more than I ever liked voicemail. Okay, I admit, I loathe voicemail. With this new feature on iOS 17, which lets me record a video message if a person doesn’t answer, I think we finally have a better answering machine, though you should still probably send a text. 

The idea of voicemail isn’t bad, it just doesn’t work for most people. Every type of message option should exist, in some form. If I have something to say to you, but I don’t need to say it immediately, I should be able to leave a message, and the medium shouldn’t matter.

voicemail ... feels like public speaking in miniature, with all the pressure and attention focused on every word

If the message is textual, I send a text message. If the message is audio, I can send an audio message, or I can call and leave a voicemail, hoping that you don’t answer the phone, of course. If the message is visual? I could send a photo or a video through the Messages app, but that seems clunky. It’s a natural fit for FaceTime to get its own message option. 

Wait, go back, because I send text messages all the time, but audio messages? Never. And I hate voicemail. I hate voicemail because, let’s face it, we’re all very bad at it. Few people are good at leaving voicemail. Nobody knows exactly what to say. Even if I rehearse my message, I end up stumbling my words or sounding forced, and it sounds terrible. 

Voicemail messages are public speaking, but only for one person to hear. Few of us enjoy public speaking, and even fewer are good at it. Yet voicemail, a message system that feels like public speaking in miniature, with all the pressure and attention focused on every word, was the norm for decades. 

Of course it had to be, because phones were audio only. Before phones had screens and keyboards and autocorrect, we had to literally wire our phones into a tape recorder and make it record messages on a tiny little cassette tape, which we would then rewind to play back. If the tape was full, no more messages (hooray!). 

FaceTime messages feel more natural

Text messaging is thirty years old (at least, the SMS phone feature is that old), and it’s finally become the default way of reaching people, as it should be. It’s calm. It’s quiet. It can wait a while. 

Even if I’m not very good at writing, I can at least check what I’ve written before I send it, unlike a voicemail. With a voicemail, I can feel the pressure to get it right. Sure, most voicemail boxes give me an option to review my message, but then I’d have to actually suffer the sound of my own voice. No, thank you. 

The other day I called my girlfriend using FaceTime and she didn’t answer. I just bought an iPhone 15 Pro Max, having switched from Android, so I haven’t used FaceTime much. I’m still getting used to it, but iPhone people love it. My kid has had an iPhone 11 for years and he uses FaceTime more than the phone app, by far. 

iPhone 11

The kiddo has become a FaceTime guru on this thing (Image credit: Future)

FaceTime gave me the option to record a video message, and I did. I don’t leave voicemails for most people, but when I think somebody might actually want to hear the sound of my voice, and not just receive my message, I record something. 

When I started to leave a FaceTime message, I felt weird at first. It felt not like leaving a voicemail but like revealing a secret. You’ve heard what I sound like on a voicemail, but here’s what actually happens behind the scenes. 

Except, this is the way she normally sees me. This is the way we interact: face to face. I put aside my peculiar hesitation and just started talking to her. It felt more natural. I like it. I’ll do it again, for sure. 

Leaving a voicemail feels like squeezing my thoughts and feelings through a pinhole so that they can be sent over a wire to a box where they wait for judgment. There is nothing comfortable or enjoyable about leaving a voicemail. It feels unnatural and pinched. Good riddance to bad messaging. 

Understanding FaceTime messages

There is nothing you need to do to make FaceTime messaging happen. If you have iOS 17 on your iPhone (any iPhone dating back to the iPhone XS/XR can run it), it will now be a feature when you FaceTime somebody and they don’t answer. You’ll have the option to record a message. 

Those messages will show up in your FaceTime app. Oddly enough, you can use FaceTime to make a call with only audio, and no video, and you can leave an audio message via FaceTime. It won’t be a voicemail on your phone, it will be a FaceTime message. Also, you can start FaceTime with an Apple Watch, even though the wearable has no camera, and you can leave a message this way as an audio-only FaceTime message.

I thought this all was unnecessary at first, and grouped FaceTime messages with the new Live Voicemail screening feature on iOS 17. Live Voicemail gives you a transcript as a caller leaves a voicemail and you can decide whether to answer while they’re recording. It seems like a throwback to the days of answering machines, and nobody was asking for answering machines to make a comeback.

Live Voicemail in iOS 17

Here is what a Live Voicemail looks like (Image credit: Apple)

Instead, FaceTime frees me from the stress and constraints of voicemail. It isn’t like public speaking at all. It’s like speaking to the person I’m calling. There’s nothing hidden. I know that I can only be myself, so I don’t try to make the message perfect and get every word right. I just speak the way I would if someone answered. 

If you have FaceTime, yes. Google Meet? Not so much...

I’m sold, and I’m also sad Android didn’t make this popular already, since Google Meet can apparently send video messages just like FaceTime. It doesn’t work quite the same, though. With FaceTime, If you don’t answer, I get to leave a message. With Google Meet, if you don’t answer, I can send you a video later.

I don’t use Google Meet to call people the way I pick up my iPhone and FaceTime somebody. spontaneously. If I’m going to get somebody on camera with Google Meet, I set an appointment with Google Calendar first. I don’t need to do that for FaceTime, because FaceTime is more personal than business. 

If you have an iPhone, give it a try. The next time you’re going to call somebody close to you, FaceTime instead. If they don’t answer, instead of sending a text, leave them a FaceTime message. See their reaction after they watch. I promise that it will be much happier than seeing there is one more voicemail, still waiting to be heard. 

Philip Berne
US Mobiles Editor

Phil Berne is a preeminent voice in consumer electronics reviews, starting more than 20 years ago at eTown.com. Phil has written for Engadget, The Verge, PC Mag, Digital Trends, Slashgear, TechRadar, AndroidCentral, and was Editor-in-Chief of the sadly-defunct infoSync. Phil holds an entirely useful M.A. in Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University. He sang in numerous college a cappella groups.

Phil did a stint at Samsung Mobile, leading reviews for the PR team and writing crisis communications until he left in 2017. He worked at an Apple Store near Boston, MA, at the height of iPod popularity. Phil is certified in Google AI Essentials. He has a High School English teaching license (and years of teaching experience) and is a Red Cross certified Lifeguard. His passion is the democratizing power of mobile technology. Before AI came along he was totally sure the next big thing would be something we wear on our faces.