When Apple released iOS 14.2 last monthNot to mention that FaceTime calls for older iPhones are now 1080p. As Mac Magazine Notes, Apple updated the product Comparison pages IPhones 8, X, XR, XS, SE and 11 (including the Max and Pro versions) show that they now support FaceTime via Wi-Fi at 1080p, before they only support 720p.
Calls made by cellular are still low resolution, but if you do facetime timing via Wi-Fi, you will notice increased resolution after the update. That is, if both callers do not have an iPhone 12, it will have 1080p facetime calls from the beginning (including cellular if you are on 5G).
My sister has an iPhone 8 with an update, so I called her on FaceTime. I took a screenshot of her while we were calling via Wi-Fi, and then switched to her cellular and took another screenshot for comparison. For better measurement, I also took screenshots on my iPhone 12 Mini to compare how it looks on my end. You can judge for yourself if you notice any differences.
I’ve worked on video all my life, and the difference between the two is great for me, at least in her late twenties. The difference at my end is a little noticeable, but I don’t think I can tell at a glance if the video coming from her phone is in full HD. Part of this may be that while her phone was transmitting to me at an increased resolution, the iPhone 8 still had a 7MP facetime camera, unlike the 12MP camera found on the iPhone 11 and later. Of course, whether you see the difference depends on how sensitive you are to the video quality or how good your eyesight is.
It is unclear why Apple did not include this feature in the changelog for the update, as it is on the iPhone Production And comparison pages. However, many people celebrate the holidays by video call to stay safe. Mom and Dad will be able to see the children’s smiles a little better, and may be surprised to see the difference you can make a small jump in resolution when you are not together.