The best video chat apps to turn social distancing into distant socializing
Many people have been caught off guard by the vagaries of social distance, making video calls a new requirement for remote socializing. But which of the twenty available applications should you and your (perhaps less tech-savvy) family members and friends use? Here are some suggestions for places to connect for coffee, gather with family, or play video games late at night.
This list is not for small businesses or enterprises; it is for people searching for a free way to quickly interact with others. Here, the emphasis is on features that are simple to use and appealing to regular people. Every app is free and cross-platform, supporting at least iOS and Android devices and many Macs and Windows computers as well.
For big groups
Skype (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Linux, web)
Pros: Many simultaneous callers
Cons: Tries too hard to do other things
Although the desktop version of Skype is not very strong, the mobile app is strong and enables large groups with no actual time restriction (four hours each conversation, 100 hours per month), all for free. It’s fantastic as long as you concentrate only on the video calls; however, you should stay away from Skype’s emoji replies, status updates, and other nonsense.
Zoom (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows)
Due to its dependability, strong web connection, and other capabilities, Zoom is one of the most widely used corporate video conferencing programmes available. Due to these benefits, it was once included here as a solid all-purpose alternative. However, complaints have since accumulated that the programme employs questionable security standards and other dubious procedures, which the corporation has purposefully misrepresented. When having a call where sensitive information could be disclosed, we advise against utilizing Zoom. In fact, it’s difficult to suggest using it at all when there are so many other perfectly acceptable alternatives.
For friends and family
FB Messenger (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows)
Pros: Easy to use, many people already on it, some handy group features
Cons: Facebook account required
With good reason, Messenger is a widely-liked programme since it functions effectively for almost any type of digital conversation you could wish to have with your pals. When you are on a two-person connection, it changes to a peer-to-peer topology, skipping servers and perhaps minimizing congestion. It allows free, unlimited, eight-person video conferences. Of course, it’s also a Facebook product, so you’ll need a Facebook account, which not everyone prefers. However, using Messenger offers far greater privacy protection from Facebook eavesdropping than posting or viewing anything on the main website.
WhatsApp Messenger (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, web)
Pros: Secure, popular
Cons: Only four people per video call
Consider WhatsApp to be the geekier, less attractive sister of Facebook Messenger. Despite being extremely unattractive and focusing on privacy, WhatsApp is widely used around the globe. While video calls aren’t one of its key features, they are available provided you don’t mind a four-person cap. Start a group chat to turn it on, choose the people by clicking the call button in the top right corner, and then click the camera.
Google Duo or Hangouts (iOS, Android, web)
Pros: Simple interface, uses existing Google account
Cons: Confusing platform issues, Duo may not be long for this world
One of Google’s latest messaging tools, Duo was created as an addition to Allo and was envisioned as a form of consumer-oriented Hangouts, which is currently being divided into Chat and Meet but is still available on its own. Confused? Google is also. However, the applications now function rather well, allowing you to make simple, limitless video conversations while connecting to your existing Google accounts and contacts. This is a wonderful choice if your pals don’t want to create new accounts anyplace, but don’t get attached, as unpopular Google products don’t often last for long.
Marco Polo (iOS, Android)
Pros: Video messaging is a fun alternative to live chats
Cons: No live chat option
It’s true that this isn’t a video chat app per se, but not everyone like to have live, face-to-face video conversations all the time. Sending quick videos to friends or groups with the flexibility to add drawings, filters, and other features makes Marco Polo similar to a simplified version of Snapchat. This might be a fantastic substitute if you and your pals find it difficult to set up 30 minutes to chat in person.
Honorable mentions: FaceTime, Instagram
FaceTime is fantastic, but the fact that it is not cross-platform severely restricts its utility. It’s a terrific, easy, and safe choice, though, if your pals do own Apple goods. It’s convenient to make fast conversations with folks you’re not sure you want to invite into a narrower circle of connectedness because Instagram includes built-in video calling for direct messaging.
For having fun together
Houseparty (iOS, Android, web)
Pros: Simple drop-in, drop-out group chat, built-in games
Cons: Basically a trojan horse for Heads Up, sudden popularity has affected video quality
Teenagers began to know Houseparty as the app they used to talk with their groups of friends without having to leave the house. Though some disagreed, kids always had the final laugh. When you’re with a small group of close friends, Houseparty is wonderful since it lets you know when someone is available and makes it simple for folks to join the conversation. The built-in games are equally enjoyable, although Heads Up decks cost money. Although entertaining, the Pictionary clone needs better terms.
Discord (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Linux, web)
Pros: Great for voice chat while gaming or simple occasional video chat
Cons: Occasionally confusing interface, not video-focused
Discord has supplanted a number of in-game chat interfaces and even outclassed industry titans like Steam as the de facto leader in gaming communications. Although video is a possibility, the major focus is on audio, and it does so brilliantly. The interface’s numerous tabs, groups, and channels may be perplexing to less tech-savvy users as well.
Honorable mention: Bunch, Squad
Bunch, a more recent programme, focuses on playing group games while using video chat. There’s no better time to give it a try even if this can be hit or miss and some of the games may need in-app payments. The platform has obviously seen a lot of activity since this all began.