Stuck at home due to the coronavirus pandemic? Use these video conferencing options to keep in touch with family, friends and your workplace.
FaceTime is Apple’s proprietary video calling app. If you have an iPhone, iPad or Mac, it operates seamlessly, letting you start a video chat with any of your contacts (so long as they are also Apple device users) the same way you would a phone call or text message. While FaceTime’s primary purpose is video chatting, as its name suggests, you can also do audio-only calls if you’re in a place with a Wi-Fi or data connection but poor phone signal. With the release of iOS 12 in 2018, Apple also added a Group FaceTime option, allowing you to chat with up to 32 people at once — assuming they all have Apple devices, of course.
The Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp has more than 2 billion users worldwide. It’s easy to use, and works on Android and iOS devices. WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption, which means that only you and the person you’re sending a message to can read what you send. You can use it to send messages, or make video or audio calls. Its global popularity makes it a great option for keeping in touch with family and friends worldwide.
Skype — owned by Microsoft — is available for iOS, Android, Windows and Mac, and offers video and audio calling, as well as a messaging feature. It has an easy-to-use interface, and supports up to 50 people on the same audio call (the number of video callers depends on what device you’re using, according to the company). Skype also lets you record, save and share your video calls, and has live captions and subtitles.
If you want to video chat with someone but can’t do so in real time — perhaps they have a busy work schedule, or live in another time zone — Marco Polo is the app for you. You can send video messages to individuals or group chats, which the other parties can watch and respond to at their leisure. Unlike Snapchat, Marco Polo saves all of your video messages so you can revisit conversations, and doesn’t limit your video time. You can also add fun filters and voice effects if you want to mix up your conversations.
Facebook’s Messenger app is primarily used for sending messages, but also includes a video chat option, making it a convenient choice for those who are on the social media platform all the time anyway. If the person you want to talk to is also a Facebook Messenger user, you can initiate a video or audio call with them through the app. And like on Facebook’s main app and Instagram, you can also add a temporary photo or video to your Story on Facebook Messenger.
Zoom offers video and audio conferencing, chat and webinar features across mobile devices, desktops, phones and room systems. It offers a free basic tier that allows you to host up to 100 participants and unlimited one-to-one meetings. It does place a 40-minute limit on group meetings, however. Zoom also has small and medium business versions, as well as an enterprise version, which cost $20 a month per host. If your organization does not use any videoconferencing service and you’re looking for a professional option while you’re working from home, at least in the short term, Zoom could be a good one for you.
Google Hangouts Meet
Google’s Hangouts Meet is a videoconferencing tool integrated into the G Suite platform that allows people to hop on meetings via a web link through their laptop or mobile app, or a phone line. If your organization uses G Suite, you can create that link directly through a Google Calendar invite. It’s a solid free option for easy business chats if you already use G Suite.