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Monday, July 06, 2020

Download these video calling apps if you’re working from home

With millions of people are working from home due to the coronavirus outbreak, the demand for video calling apps and video conferencing software is shooting up.

Written by Anuj Bhatia | New Delhi | Updated: March 19, 2020 5:23:45 pm
These are the best free video chat apps and enterprise-level video conference software you need to download on your mobile and laptop. (Image credit: Skype)

The coronavirus continues to spread around the world, prompting many companies to implement work from home policies. In fact, many people have no option to go to the office with governments restricting movements in some areas. But with smartphones being the default mobile devices for most people, it’s now easy to place a video call, or even be on a conference call with multiple contacts. Many of these apps also offer end-to-end encryption, thus keeping your information secure.

Top tech and tips for working from home during coronavirus pandemic

Here’s a list of free video calling apps that you can download on Apple iPhone, Android phones, Mac and Windows laptops.

Zoom (iOS, Android, Windows, macOS )

Pros: Free tier
Cons: Group calls are limited to 40 minutes

Zoom is a popular video conferencing software among small, mid and large-sized teams. It is essentially a cloud-based video conferencing platform that anyone can use to virtually meet with others. The platform can support up to 1000 participants, and up to 49 videos on a single screen. Over 60 per cent of Fortune 500 companies use Zoom.

The Zoom allows unlimited meetings but limits group sessions to 40 minutes and 100 participants. If you are working from home, knowing the coronavirus outbreak is temporary, Zoom’s free tier is still the best option for you. Pricing for a paid tier starts at $15 per month per host that includes longer meetings and more participants.

CiscoWebEX (iOS, Android, Windows, macOS)

Pros: You can schedule meetings directly from the app
Cons: Limited recording options

CiscoWebEx is another popular conferencing software platform among business users, capable of providing HD quality videos and full-featured collaboration tools. Although the platform is paid, Cisco does offer a free tier. The free WebEx plan lets you hold meetings in HD with up to 100 participants, screen sharing, and a personal room. The free package also includes 1GB of cloud storage, unlimited number of meetings, and includes an MP4 recording of meetings.

Google Hangouts Meet (iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, Chrome, Linux)

Pros: Logical option for G Suite customers
Cons: Free (with a G Suite subscription)

Google’s Hangout Meet is an out-and-out video conferencing platform that allows teams to collaborate and do virtual meetings through mobile app and laptop. It is a free service within Google’s G Suite software. The platform supports up to 50 participants with decent videos and audio quality. Plus, it also syncs with Google Calendar.

For the limited time period due to the Coronavirus outbreak, Google is giving free access to “advanced” features for Hangouts Meet to all G Suite and G Suite for Education customers globally through July 1. That means all educational customers can host meetings with up to 250 participants, live stream to up to 100,000 viewers within a single domain, and record and save meetings to Google Drive. Usually, Google charges $13 extra for these features.

Apple FaceTime (iOS, macOS)

Pros: Deeply integrated into Apple devices
Cons: Limited to Apple devices

If you use an iPhone, iPad or Mac, there is no better voice calling app than FaceTime. The app, which is exclusive to Apple devices, is easy to use and can be used for both video chatting and audio-only calls. In recent months, Apple has added the Group FaceTime feature, which means you can chat with up to 32 people at once, considering all have Apple devices. The feature is useful for those who have a large social circle or you can video chat with your entire team via FaceTime. The only disadvantage of FaceTime is that it is limited to Apple devices. If someone in the team is using an Android smartphone or Windows laptop — an inevitability in a market like India — they won’t be able to join in.

WhatsApp (Android, iOS)

Pros: Works everywhere
Cons: Limited features

With over two billion active users, the Facebook-owned WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in the world. The free-to-use app allows users to make voice or video calls over Wi-Fi or a data connection in addition to text messaging. Tap on the video camera icon and your video call starts immediately. The quality of the video is clear, though it depends a lot on the data connection or Wi-Fi speed. WhatsApp also supports Group Video chats, up to four people at once. There’s a desktop version of the app that lets you send and receive chat messages from your desktop or laptop computer — but there is no way to video chat. However, the features are limited during the call and not more than three people can be on a conference call.

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Facebook Messenger (Android, iOS,  web)

Pros: Easy to use and reliable
Cons: One more app needed

If you are on Facebook, we bet you also use Facebook Messenger. The free to use Facebook Messenger app lets you make video calls or audio calls. Click on the name of a contact you want to call, then in the chat window, click on the camera icon right next to the call icon to video call. The big advantage of using Facebook Messenger for video calls is that the app is quick and easy to use. Group video chat is also possible, with up to 50 people can join a call. However, you need the messenger app along with Facebook as the service has been delinked from the latter.

Google Duo (Android, iOS, Web, Google Nest)

Pros: Solid and simple to use, video messages
Cons: Group video chat supports only eight people

Google Duo is a free-to-download video calling app that works with Android devices and iOS. With Google Duo, you can either place video calls or video chats with up to eight people. One feature that stands out on Google Duo is that the app gives you the option to leave video messages. Google Duo Duo has a nifty feature called “Knock Knock”, which lets you see a live video preview of a caller before you attend a call.

Skype (Android, iOS, Xbox, Alexa, web, Windows, macOS,  Linux)

Pros: Available on almost all platforms
Cons: Call quality may suffer if you have a slow internet connection

Skype is perhaps the most popular video calling platform in the world. It’s available on every platform out there, including Xbox. While skype-to -skype calls are free, the platform also provides an option to call landlines and cellphones with the app — but that comes at a cost. Group calls are supported, up to 50 different people at once.

Amazon Alexa (Amazon Echo Show, Amazon Fire tablet, Android, iOS)

Pros: Decent video calling option
Cons: You need to download the Alexa app

You can make a video call to other Echo owners, or those users with the Alexa app on your smartphone. The feature is completely free to use, and it works over Wi-Fi on most Echo devices. For many, the Echo Show is perfect for video calling. The screen has the right size (depends on the model you pick), the quality of speakers and microphones is much better on a phone or tablet. The disadvantage is that the user base of Echo Show is still growing, so not many people actually use Amazon Alexa video calling.

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