Video conferencing applications are one of the types of software most wanted, downloaded and used in the last weeks. The objective is known: to cover the new needs of digital communication in the face of the confinement of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These applications are being used for teleworking (although this section has its own more specialized tools in collaboration and productivity); by students to connect with centers and / or teachers or simply on a personal level to maintain contact with family or friends. It is not surprising that in an era of physical social distancing, the use of these video conferencing applications have experienced record growth.
In case you do not know all the available offer and want to try this type of tools, we have compiled the ones we see most interesting for all platforms.
Google Hangouts – Meet – Duo
If you have a Google account, you have access to Hangouts, a free communication tool that includes chat, phone calls and video calls from a web browser or through dedicated applications for iPhone and Android.
For basic Gmail or G Suite Basic clients without subscription payment, Google Hangouts allows video conferencing up to 10 people. The service also supports simultaneous voice chat and allows participants to join a conference by email or via a share link. In response to the coronavirus crisis.
Google is replacing Hangouts with Meet, a tool that was born for educational and business segments and that has interesting news such as its integration in Gmail; noise reduction; share individual tabs or increase support for up to 16 users in the same meeting. Google has also relaxed some restrictions for all G Suite and G Suite for Education business customers, regardless of their subscription level. Customers can now video conference with up to 250 participants until July 1, 2020.
The Internet giant also offers other types of video conferencing applications such as Google Duo. Created by Justin Uberti (responsible for the WebRTC communications standard) was born as an alternative to FaceTime or what comes from messaging services. And as a specialized improvement of a Hangouts that has never finished exploding. Google has recently expanded the capacity of group calls to 12 participants. It works very well (especially on Android), it offers great streaming quality and is also available for iOS, Chrome OS and via the Web.
An extremely interesting project, 100% free, open source, private and in which you do not need registration or installation. Jitsi started out as a Microsoft Messenger clone, but with multi-protocol support, and over time its development turned to Skype-style VoIP solutions.
Now it is one of the most powerful proposals in its category for work groups, although it is available for private users. It includes features like desktop sharing, presentation playback, collaborative document editing, and of course video conferencing with built-in chat and a limit of up to 75 participants.
Apple’s communications application turns its first ten years next June and is obviously a preferred option for users of the Cupertino firm. It works through a phone number or an Apple ID and allows you to make audio or video calls with up to 32 participants at a time.
FaceTime is integrated into the recent calls list in the Phone app and can also be used from the Contacts list. It allows to use effects to turn the user into an Animoji, send stickers and other functions.
It works from Wi-Fi networks or cellular services and supports iOS, iPadOS or macOS operating systems, to work on an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or a Mac computer.
CISCO is a name generally associated with commercial business products, generally out of the reach of ordinary users. But it also has solutions like Webex, a robust and free option for those looking for basic video conferencing applications.
Allows you to host up to 100 participants in a single call, for as long as you want. There are no limits on the number of calls you can make, and with a free account you get 1 GB of cloud storage. Conferencing includes support for features such as screen sharing, files, or video recording.
Webex allows users in up to 52 countries to use a standard phone to join any conference. Participants who want to use their webcams can choose from a website, dedicated desktop applications, or mobile applications for iPhone and Android with their own screen sharing features.
Despite its security and privacy problems (improved in the latest version 5.0) and its prohibition by various governments and companies, it is still one of the most used video conferencing applications (more than 300 million users) for the ease of use of its interface, its fun backgrounds or its scalability for use on multiple devices.
Zoom is a complete video conferencing package aimed at business users, but it offers an attractive free option. Users with a free account can organize video conferences for up to 100 participants, although meetings of three or more members are limited to a duration of 40 minutes. You can upgrade to a payment plan to remove these restrictions or simply keep it free. There are no limits on the number of meetings you can organize, so you can simply organize a new video call once you have reached the limit.
The free account also allows you to make phone calls, record video or audio locally, and share screens with other participants. Zoom can be used via the web, with dedicated applications, browser extensions and mobile devices using apps for iOS and Android.
Microsoft Skype – Skype Meet Now
Microsoft proprietary software after acquiring what was the best VoIP platform on the market. Today there is much more competition and Skype has lost traction at the consumption level although its technology has been incorporated as a communication tool for other company applications such as Teams.
Skype allows text, voice and video communications over the Internet (VoIP), free by voice and video between Skype users to and from anywhere in the world, in addition to making special calls at very low cost, between computers and landline or mobile phone networks. It also includes a useful cloud-based call recording feature that any member can activate and share upon prior notice to the rest.
Each participant must register and download Skype in some way, be it an application for desktop computer (Windows macOS or Linux), mobile platform (Android, Windows Phone, iOS). It is also compatible with most smart TVs and can be used on consoles such as Xbox.
To counter the penalty that this type of registration and installation entails, this week we have known the Skype Meet Now variant, which allows video conferences without the need to register anywhere, or download and install any application. Just enter the Skype Meet Now website and with one click, generate a link to share with those who want to start a conversation. They include the possibility of recording calls or sharing the screen with the same limit of participants (50) of the general application.
If you are looking for one safe and private alternative that is not part of the business of a company, here is an open source solution whose forceful definition marks clear distances from other commercials: «Tox is carried out by people fed up with the existing options that spy on us, track us, censor us and prevent us innovate”.
Perhaps you fear a lousy interface or a confusing configuration, but it is not. Just install qTox (the full-featured app) or uTox (intended for lighter systems) and start chatting. Tox is completely free and without ads. It offers secure chats, voice calls and video calls, as well as screen sharing and unlimited file sharing. Tox has desktop versions for Windows, Mac and Linux, and mobiles for iOS and Android.
Contrary to what its name suggests, it is not a free service by default. It is a premium paid service, but it offers a decent free option that can be useful for basic cases. FreeConference only supports up to 5 videoconference participants at the free level. What makes FreeConference shine is its support for up to 1,000 audio participants to call on the phone.
The service also takes a software-free approach to video calls, allowing most users to connect only from a browser. It also offers mobile applications for iPhone and Android, which are open to free users.
A classic option offering all the standard features, including group chats, video calls and stickers. If you change devices often, you will appreciate Viber’s transfer function that allows you to move calls to a mobile phone.
Viber features public chats (called Communities) that allow you to connect with others if you don’t have friends to send messages and it has built-in games if you want to compete with your friends. Viber doesn’t stand out for any particular reason, but it’s a solid app. To use Viber on the desktop, you must first register on your mobile phone to synchronize the account.
Whatsapp and Line
We leave for the end (because you know them well) two other great instant messaging applications: Whatsapp and Line. Although they are not the best video conferencing applications, They also offer this type of functions and surely they are being used in a massive way for their versatility, ease of use and because apps like WhatsApp are installed on more than 2,000 million devices.
To catch up with more specialized tools, WhatsApp has recently announced the extension of the video conferencing function to 8 participants and will be welcome. You know the rest of the features well, including voice calls and text messages.
As to Line, is another well-known messenger (although used massively in Asia) that allows you to easily keep up with friends and family. It offers free video calls, voice calls and text messages for groups. Also thousands of animated stickers, although most are paid through in-app purchases.
We stopped here because we could include another half dozen video conferencing applications, software that is breaking usage and traffic records due to the change in life caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.