updated November 25, 2021 at 1:23 p.m.
- Some iPhone users experience their screen momentarily turning black while on FaceTime calls.
- The issue affects both the caller and receiver and has been a problem since iOS 10 and persists in iOS 15.
- Some users suggest that FaceTime participants may be taking screenshots of the conversation, resulting in a black screen flash.
- Other issues, such as poor Internet connectivity, dirty lenses, and background interference, may also contribute to this issue.
FaceTime User Experience Undermined by Black Screen Flashes
When we were young, many of us dreamed of the day when we could use a video phone to reach out to friends, family, and colleagues. Although telephones have existed for over a century, the technology doesn’t provide the best communication experience. Facial expressions are an essential aspect of communication.
Even worse, text-based communication offers little ability to emote or interpret tone. I’m sure we’ve all texted with people who mistake a joke or ironic statement as a sincere personal attack. While this is less likely to happen with a phone conversation, as one can usually interpret tone, video chats seldom end up in hurt feelings.
Apple’s FaceTime technology, which launched over a decade ago with iOS 4, typically offers one of the best video chat experiences. With exceptional picture quality and a simple user interface, FaceTime is now the second most popular video chat application in the US, with Zoom taking the lead. A Statista survey reveals that 34% of US respondents use Facetime regularly.
iOS 12 introduced Group FaceTime, making the application more suitable for corporate users. iOS 15 brings the ability to invite non-Apple customers into FaceTime chats, further increasing Apple’s video conferencing market.
Despite FaceTime’s overall quality and evolution of key features, some defects undermine the popular video chat app. Users are often annoyed by black screen flashes, which detract from the overall user experience. While these are certainly not show-stopping defects, they make the FaceTime experience seem cheap and defective. It’s certainly not the quality Apple customers expect.
Why Does the Screen Flash Black on FaceTime Calls?
FaceTime’s black screen flash issue may be due to a variety of reasons. Some users indicate that the bug arises when either party attempts to take a screenshot of the conversation. This seems to be the most relevant and common source of the defect; however, it also affects users who aren’t taking screenshots.
Internet connectivity is the next most common cause of FaceTime’s black screen flash defect. If your Internet connection is too slow, Apple’s popular video chat app may flash erratically. A similar problem affects Apple TV, where poor Internet connectivity results in a flashing screen.
The user’s background can also influence FaceTime video quality. It’s believed that the iPhone and iPad’s white balancing features may cause black screen flashes, particularly with white backgrounds. Furthermore, a dirty camera lens could make it more difficult for iOS to provide proper white balancing.
Rumors suggest that having too many apps open may cause the black screen flashing issue. This is highly unlikely due to the multitasking model employed in iOS. Only one app at a time can use the camera, and this is typically the foreground app. To conserve memory, iOS passivates unused apps. Unlike Android, Apple doesn’t offer true multitasking on the iPhone. With about a third of the RAM of flagship Android devices, the iPhone does not have the resources to provide full multitasking, where entire apps run concurrently in memory.
Now that we know the causes of FaceTime’s black screen flashes, let’s look at fixing them. We’ll address the most likely causes of this issue and finish with the more improbable.
Refrain from Taking FaceTime Screen Shots to Prevent Black Screen Flashes
Since screenshots by any FaceTime participant may cause black screen flashes, refraining from such activity will solve the problem. If you need to take screenshots of FaceTime chats, accept that the screen may flash black. While this is a defect, it doesn’t harm your device or hamper communications.
It’s important to understand that if the screen flashes black during a FaceTime call, it doesn’t always mean someone took a screenshot. FaceTime participants may be wary of screenshots out of privacy concerns. There are other causes of this defect, so it’s best to refrain from accusing other parties of taking screenshots.
If you’re looking for a more secure and safe way to communicate, Snapchat may be a better option. Although users can take screenshots, the app alerts the other party of this activity. Of course, there are ways around this, including simply taking a photo of the entire device with another camera.
Check Internet Connection
Much of the world suffers from poor Internet connectivity. Even if you have a great Internet Service Provider, their operations could succumb to peak traffic, outages, malware, or other problems.
FaceTime operates over a Wi-Fi or cellular connection. To further complicate troubleshooting, both parties require adequate Internet bandwidth to enjoy a smooth FaceTime conversation. According to Aruba networks, FaceTime participants need at least 350 kbps, upload and download speed, to facilitate optimum performance.
If you’re experiencing black screen flashes in FaceTime, you may want to check your Internet connection. Ookla’s Speedtest app is the industry standard for checking Internet speed. Ensure that all of your FaceTime participants test their bandwidth, as they could be the communications bottleneck.
It’s important to note that Internet speeds constantly fluctuate, with cellular connections being the most volatile. If you wish to have the best FaceTime experience, connecting to a stable Wi-Fi network is the best option.
Of course, broadband in the United States and many developing nations is often slow and unreliable. In the San Francisco Bay Area, my cellular connection is more reliable than cable Internet service. In some circumstances, a cellular connection could be faster and more stable than other Internet services.
Don’t Use a White Background with FaceTime
Users report that black screen flashes seem to correlate with the participant’s background. If one is chatting on FaceTime in front of a white wall, this may trigger the defect. Its thought that the issue is due to white balancing in the iPhone’s camera software.
It’s easy to solve this issue. Before you do anything:
- Clean your iPhone’s camera lenses with a clean microfiber cloth.
- If this doesn’t solve the problem, move to a new location where you’re not in front of a white background.
- If all of the walls in your home are white or off-white, consider hanging a painting, poster, or tapestry in your FaceTime environment. You could go so far as to paint a room a different color, but this is unnecessary.
Keep Updating iOS Regularly
Apple, like any other tech company, is staffed by human beings who make mistakes. Furthermore, Apple’s quality assurance process seems to be undermined by a sort of group-think, where employees admire the company so much, they’re reluctant to speak out about glaring flaws. This often means that Apple considers flaws to be features.
Since Apple vastly inflated its stock value with buybacks, the best and brightest seek opportunities with pre-IPO companies, where they have the potential to become billionaires. Apple no longer hires the most skilled employees, as all they can offer are average salaries and stock options with exceptionally inflated strike prices. Unable to hire the best developers and QA engineers, Apple’s products aren’t any better than the competition. Apple’s marketing projects the notion of quality; however, competitors like Google, Samsung, and OnePlus often release superior software and devices.
Apple will eventually fix black screen flashes in FaceTime. They may not admit to remediating this defect in their release notes. The best way to fix this issue is to keep updating your iPhone with the latest version of iOS. Just wait a few days after each release to ensure that the update won’t brick your device or introduce even more defects.