Which Video Calling platform should I use?
It can be difficult to feel connected to your friends and family if you live far apart or are social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, we live in a world today where technology can be extremely beneficial to alleviate the stress of not being able to physically see one another. Gone are the days of old phones where you could only make audio calls and play snake. Today we have multiple programs that allow you to make video calls. Read on to find out which platform will work best for you.
Launched by Apple with the iPhone 4 in 2010, FaceTime was originally only available using Wi-Fi. Indeed, it wasn’t until 2012 that the company released a cellular version. For many years, FaceTime only supported direct, person-to-person video calls, but as of iOS 12.1, you can also make group calls should you wish to. Up to 32 people can be on a group call.
The app supports video and audio calling between any Apple devices such as Mac to iPhone or from iPad to iPod touch, and uses the devices’ front-facing cameras to show the caller to the receiver, and vice versa.
To make a call, select a recipient from your ‘Contacts’ and then choose the FaceTime icon under the phone or the video camera. Alternatively, you can make a regular audio call and then click the FaceTime button. FaceTime is a great option if you’re calling someone with an Apple device, however it will not work with any other operating systems (OS).
Summary: Great platform to use for video calls if you all have Apple devices.
If you have a Facebook account, then you might prefer to video chat with your friends and family on this app. Since its introduction in 2011, Facebook Messenger has become an extremely popular platform with more than 1.3 billion users in 2019.
To video call using Messenger you will need both parties to have a Facebook account, as well as a desktop computer with a web camera, or a mobile device with the Messenger app. Any device using Messenger on Wi-Fi will be able to make calls for free, but if you’re using mobile data, this will be taken from your plan.
The phone icon for audio calls in a Messenger chat is at the top right-hand corner, while the camera icon makes face-to-face video calls. Since 2016, the platform has also allowed you to make group calls. To start a group call, create a chat with the contacts you want to call using the pen and paper symbol in the top right corner of the home page. Once this chat has been created, press the camera icon to start the call. Up to 50 people can be on a group call at one time.
Summary: Useful platform for video calls when you don’t have someone’s phone number, but you are friends on Facebook.
WhatsApp is another hugely popular messaging and video platform with around 18 billion messages sent per day over the app. Video calling lets you chat with any contacts you have who have also downloaded and are using WhatsApp. However, it is worth noting that on Android, video calling is only available on Android’s with OS 4.1+ and, if your phone’s operating system isn’t supported, video calling won’t be available to you. To place a video call, open the chat with the contact you want to video call and tap the camera icon in the top right corner.
Video calls have been supported by WhatsApp since 2016 but were limited to two participants, until 2018 when the platform introduced group video calls of up to four people. Like messages on WhatsApp, calls are encrypted end-to-end. This means that the chat is protected and can’t be intercepted by hackers.
To make a group video call, start by creating a one-to-one video call with a contact and then click the ‘add participant’ button at the top right of the screen.
Summary: Works well if you want to video call friends or family who have a mixture of Apple and Android devices.
Skype has been around the longest of the video calling platforms, having been created in 2003. However, video calls on a mobile only became available in 2010, once mobile phone software could support them. At this time, the ability to make group calls were only available through a monthly subscription. However, as it stands now in 2020, calling contacts who also have Skype is free but to call a mobile phone or landline through Skype requires Skype Credit or a paid subscription.
Of the platforms described in this blog, Skype is most commonly associated with more formal conversations. It is a great tool for online lessons, for example. This doesn’t mean it can’t be used for day-to-day conversations, but it is not as popular as the other video calling platforms.
To place a video call, find the person you want to talk to in your ‘Contacts’. Select the contact you want to call, and then select the video call button.
To make a group call via an iPhone using Skype, head to your ‘Calls list’ and select the ‘new call’ button. Next tap all the participants you want to call (up to 50) and press the ‘call’ icon.
From an Android you will need OS 4.0.4 + to make a video call. To create a group call, go to your ‘Calls list’ and select ‘Start a new call’. Then tap on ‘New Group Call’ and select all the participants you want to call. Finally tap the ‘call’ icon.
Summary: A great tool to video call in more formal circumstances, where you wouldn’t necessarily have your contacts mobile phone number.
Will you be trying any of these platforms now you know more about them? Do let us know in the comments below and see also: