iOS 17 FaceTime Hand Gesture Brings New Reactions

Apple recently announced iOS 17, the latest version of its mobile iOS 17 FaceTime Hand Gesture operating system for iPhone and iPad. One of the most exciting new features is “iOS 17 FaceTime Hand Gesture, which allows users to perform hand gestures during video calls to express emotions and reactions.

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iOS 17 FaceTime Hand Gesture has become an indispensable communication tool, especially during the pandemic when in-person interactions were limited. However, despite its popularity, the video calling experience remained relatively basic.

With iOS 17, Apple aims to make FaceTime calls more expressive and interactive. The new Reactions feature lets users perform specific hand gestures that are translated into fun animations like thumbs up, hearts, and fireworks.

This guide will cover everything you need to know about using the new iOS 17 FaceTime Hand Gesture, including:

  • How Reactions work and the gesture controls
  • The 8 reaction effects available at launch
  • How to trigger Reactions during a FaceTime call
  • Reactions vs Memoji
  • The technology powering the feature
  • Privacy protections and controls
  • How third-party apps can implement Reactions
  • The future possibilities for FaceTime reactions

So read on to learn all about this exciting new way to interact and express yourself on FaceTime calls!

How Do FaceTime Reactions Work?

iOS 17 FaceTime Hand Gesture utilize the TrueDepth camera on iPhone and iPad to detect and translate specific hand gestures into fun, animated reactions during a FaceTime video call.

When a user performs one of the supported gestures, the person on the other end will see a full-screen animation representing that reaction. For example, giving a thumbs up will display a large thumbs up icon over the caller’s face.

Apple has included 8 different reactions that can be activated by hand gestures at launch:

  • Thumbs up 👍
  • Thumbs down 👎
  • Heart ❤️
  • Fireworks 🎆
  • Confetti 🎊
  • Balloons 🎈
  • Rain ☔️
  • Laser light show 🎇

In addition to triggering reactions with gestures, users can also long-press their tile during a FaceTime call to bring up a menu and select a reaction. So reactions can be activated in two ways:

  1. Performing the appropriate hand gesture
  2. Selecting a reaction from the menu

Either way, the person on the receiving end will see the same full-screen animation for a few seconds before the video returns to normal.

The 8 FaceTime Reaction Options

Let’s take a closer look at the 8 reaction animations available in iOS 17:

Thumbs Up

A large thumbs up icon pops up indicating approval or agreement. This is perfect for reacting positively to good news or congratulating someone.

Thumbs Down

A large thumbs down icon appears to politely show disapproval or disagreement. Use this instead of overt criticism.


A big beating heart pulses on screen. Send this to show love, gratitude or support. It’s great for close friends and family.


A visual explosion of fireworks is displayed. Fireworks make a great reaction for celebrations, accomplishments, or just for fun.


A blast of multi-colored confetti flies across the screen. Confetti is festive and uplifting, ideal for birthdays, special occasions or just cheering someone up.


Bunches of balloons float up carrying congratulatory messages. Balloons make an appropriate reaction for birthdays, graduations, baby showers or other milestones worth celebrating.


A flurry of rain drops appear, almost as if the camera lens is being splashed. Rain can represent crying tears of joy or sorrow, depending on the context.

Laser Light Show

A psychedelic laser light display flashes colorfully. Lasers make the perfect reaction for dance parties or just blowing someone’s mind.

As you can see, Apple selected a versatile set of reactions spanning positive, negative, celebratory, emotional and fun. This variety allows for nuanced and expressive communication without words.

How to Trigger Reactions in FaceTime

Using FaceTime Reactions is simple. There are two ways to activate them during a call:

1. Perform Gestures

Each reaction type is triggered by a unique hand gesture. For example, giving a thumbs up displays the thumbs up icon.

To preview the gesture controls, go to Settings > FaceTime > Reactions and tap the information button next to each reaction. This will demonstrate the correct gesture to perform.

Once you know the gestures, do them naturally while on a FaceTime call when you want to send a reaction. Point the front-facing TrueDepth camera at your face and hand to ensure it detects the gesture.

2. Select from Menu

Alternatively, you can open the Reactions menu and select one. To do this, long press your tile in the FaceTime interface during a call.

The menu will appear overlayed on your face tile, containing all the different reactions. Simply tap the reaction you want to activate and your selection will take over the screen on the other end.

So whether you use gestures or menu selection, both methods make sending FaceTime reactions fun and easy. With just a hand wave or a tap, you can now express yourself visually.

How Reactions Differ from Memoji

You may be wondering – how are the new FaceTime Reactions different from Memoji?

Memoji are customized animated avatars that represent you in Messages, Facetime and more. They live as stickers in apps and allow you to react visually in chats.

The key differences between Memoji and Reactions are:

  • Personalization – Memoji are customized to look like you, while Reactions are generic animations from Apple.
  • Context – Memoji are stickers used in instant messages, while Reactions overlay FaceTime calls.
  • Interactivity – Reactions are hand gesture triggered, making them more interactive.

So in summary:

  • Memoji = personalized animated stickers for messages
  • Reactions = interactive animated overlays for FaceTime

Memoji are still ideal for adding your likeness to conversations. But Reactions bring more interactivity directly into FaceTime calls, making them more engaging.

The two features complement each other nicely!

The Technology Behind FaceTime Reactions

Powering the new FaceTime Reactions feature is some impressive camera technology Apple has developed. Here’s a look at how it works:

  • TrueDepth Camera – The front-facing camera on newer iPhones and iPads contains a sophisticated TrueDepth system. This includes an infrared camera, dot projector and flood illuminator to detect facial details and motions accurately.
  • Neural engine processing – Video from the TrueDepth camera is processed in real-time by the device’s neural engine. This analyzes hand gestures and movements using on-device machine learning algorithms.
  • Motion triggers – When the neural engine recognizes you performing a supported reaction gesture, it triggers the animation overlay on the recipient’s screen.
  • Facial tracking – Advanced face tracking ensures the animations are overlaid properly over your face on-screen. As you move, the reactions move with you.
  • ARKit integration – Apple’s augmented reality framework ARKit plays a role in rendering reactive effects and tracking faces.

The end result is instantly recognizable hand gestures that activate fun reactions augmented over real-time video. It’s an impressive implementation of computer vision and AR technologies to enhance FaceTime.

Privacy Protections

A natural question when using camera-based features is – how private are they? Rest assured FaceTime Reactions do not introduce any new privacy risks, thanks to protections Apple has implemented:

  • On-device processing – No visual data leaves the device. All gesture recognition happens privately using the iPhone/iPad processor.
  • Encryption – FaceTime calls are end-to-end encrypted so video content stays safe.
  • Permissions – The TrueDepth camera requires user permission access before Reactions can be enabled.
  • Toggle – There is a simple toggle switch to disable Reactions at any time.

So users are in full control over their privacy. You have to opt-in to use Reactions, and can stop sharing at any time. The feature processes data entirely on-device too.

Third-Party App Integration

At launch, FaceTime Reactions are exclusive to Apple’s apps on iOS 17. But in the future, third-party video calling apps will also be able to incorporate Reactions using new developer APIs.

Here are some examples of popular apps that could benefit from implementing FaceTime Reactions:

  • WhatsApp – One of the most widely used chat apps can let users send Reactions during WhatsApp calls.
  • Facebook Messenger – Messenger is commonly used for video chat, so enabling Reactions could make calls more engaging.
  • Instagram – Video calls in Instagram DMs could become more expressive by adopting Reactions.
  • Snapchat – Snapchat is known for fun visual effects, so Reactions make perfect sense for Snapchat video chats.
  • Zoom/Teams – Reactions can help enterprise video conferencing tools like Zoom and Teams feel less stiff and more natural.

Essentially any app with live video chat can add more vibrancy by incorporating FaceTime Reactions. We can expect popular services to add support over the coming years.

The Future Possibilities

While FaceTime Reactions launch with a specific set of 8 effects, there is room for Apple to expand and build upon the feature in future iOS updates.

Here are some exciting possibilities that may come in the future:

  • More reactions – Apple can easily introduce additional Reactions like clapping, pointing, blowing a kiss, shrugging, and more. The gesture interface makes extending the catalogue simple.
  • Custom reactions – Taking it further, Apple could allow creating personalized Reaction GIFs or Memoji effects. This would let users send custom animated Reactions.
  • Multiplayer reactions – Group FaceTime calls could show Reactions from multiple people simultaneously. This would enable shared reactions.
  • 3D animated characters – Picture replacing your face with a 3D animated character like a panda or alien when sending Reactions.
  • Augmented reality – Apple could augment virtual objects and effects into the video call using ARKit, like hats, glasses, balloons that float around, etc.
  • Real-time translations – Reactions could help translate gestures into different languages in real-time during calls.

As you can see, there’s no limit to where Apple can take the concept over time. For now, we have a great starting point with the initial reactions. But the future promises even more integration between AR, AI, and communication.


FaceTime Reactions introduce a fun new way to communicate feelings visually during video calls. With just a hand gesture or tap, you can now send animated effects like thumbs up, hearts, and celebrations.

Powered by the TrueDepth camera and on-device AI, Reactions bring more interaction and emotion into video chats. At the same time, Apple has implemented strong privacy measures to keep your data safe.

While Reactions are exclusive to Apple apps at launch, third-party services will be able to adopt the feature as well over time. And Apple has ample opportunity to expand Reactions with new effects, customization, and integration with AR.

Overall, iOS 17’s FaceTime Reactions offer a glimpse into the future of mobile communication. Simple gestures and visual effects can convey so much more than plain video alone. This shows Apple’s commitment to enhancing the video calling experience as FaceTime becomes an increasingly vital part of how we interact.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get Reactions on my iPhone?

Reactions are available on iPhone models with a TrueDepth front-facing camera system running iOS 17. This includes iPhone X and later. Simply update to iOS 17 to use Reactions.

Can I disable Reactions?

Yes, there is a toggle switch in FaceTime settings to disable Reactions at any time for privacy. You can also decline granting initial camera access permission.

Do both callers need iOS 17 to use Reactions?

For Reactions to work during a FaceTime call, both the sender performing gestures and receiver seeing animations need devices running iOS 17.

Can I use Memoji and Reactions together?

Yes! Memoji are personalized stickers for Messages, while Reactions are interactive overlays for FaceTime calls. The two complement each other.

Will Reactions drain my battery?

Using FaceTime Reactions should not significantly impact battery life. The on-device processing is efficient. Disabling Reactions saves power as with any camera feature.

Can Reactions be triggering for some people?

Reactions are meant to be playful. But indeed some animations like fireworks or lasers could be overstimulating for certain individuals. Thankfully reactions can be disabled entirely.

Do Reactions work on Group FaceTime calls?

At launch, Reactions can only be sent by the active speaker during 1-on-1 FaceTime calls. But future iOS updates may bring the ability to view reactions from multiple callers simultaneously.

Can third-party apps add Reactions?

Initially no, but Apple will release APIs in the future allowing video calling apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Zoom and others to integrate FaceTime Reactions.

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