How To Make FaceTime Calls On iPhone Without FaceTime Activation

As an iOS developer I have a number of devices with which to test. Among those are FaceTime capable iPhones, but because I don't have a phone contract or data plan for them the FaceTime app isn't available to use. The reason is because Apple uses a specially crafted text message to activate the application. But because I don't have a carrier plan I can't ever receive it.

Except there's a loophole that I just discovered. You still have to go into Settings --> FaceTime and do the usual setup:

  1. Turn FaceTime on.
  2. Enter a valid Apple ID.
  3. Add an email address that people should be able to use to reach you.

Ignore the 'Waiting for activation...' message, it will never activate. Next, open the Contacts app and add a contact (or modify an existing one) so that the contact has a FaceTime email address. Make sure to save the changes you made, then switch to the Phone app.

In the Phone app, go to the Favorites tab and add the contact with the FaceTime email address. In the list you will see the contact with the FaceTime symbol next to it. Tap on the contact and it will immediately start a FaceTime call. Amazing, huh?!

Unfortunately, I am unable to test this on an iOS 4 device. My iPhone 4 and 4s are both running on iOS 5, but there's no reason not to upgrade and be able to take advantage of all the neat features of the upgrade, including being able to make unactivated FaceTime calls. Also, I do not know that this work around will work in countries where FaceTime is intentionally disabled by Apple.

Posted on Nov 24
Written by Wayne Hartman