We look at the features that set the leading video chat platforms apart and break down the areas in which each one excels.
Video calls were the stuff of science fiction novels for decades, but now they are an everyday reality. Businesses, freelancers, and remote workers use video calls and video conferences on a regular basis, while grandparents and grandkids, boyfriends and girlfriends, parents and children use them to keep up their relationship. With video calls and video conferencing facilities so easily available, all you need to do is to choose a service and get going.
What to Look for When Choosing Video Chat Software
Sound and Picture Quality
You want to be sure that you can hear and see the other person clearly without annoying pauses or fuzziness. Because most video chat software works over the internet, your sound and image quality will be affected by the strength of internet coverage in your area. Some video chat programs have better coverage on particular networks or in particular areas, so you might need to try out one or two before hitting on the best call quality.
You also don’t want to keep having to redial because your calls get dropped. It’s annoying in a personal conversation. If you’ve organized an important video conference then losing the connection repeatedly moves to a new level of frustration.
Apps and Download Compatibility
Although most video chat software has apps that suit most mobile operating systems and wide compatibility with computing OS, it’s still best to make sure that the software suits your device. If you want to use the same set of contacts on both your desktop and your mobile, or move your business calls smoothly from mobile to tablet to desktop, you’ll want to choose a service that can work easily on all your devices.
For businesses that need to run meetings between multiple premises, video conferencing is often cheaper and easier than meeting physically. Frequently it’s not even possible to meet in person, such as when coordinating with employees based overseas. Families and friends also often want to chat together as a group over video chat rather than just one on one. For those situations you’ll want video chat software with video conferencing capabilities.
Finally, your security during video calls is extremely important. Look for video chat software that encrypts conversations so that snoopers can’t listen in, and that have a strong reputation for respecting data privacy.
Comparing the Best Video Chat Software
Skype is the best-known video chat service around, so much so that ‘to Skype’ has become a generic verb for calling someone over the internet. Skype provides plenty of communication features as well as straightforward video chats.
The video and audio quality is high, with HD video available and a low rate of call dropping
Enjoy video conference calls of up to 25 participants and send instant messages with files, photos, and documents within the app
Skype enables screen sharing so that two users can show what they are seeing on their screen
Client programs for Mac, Windows, and Linux
Mobile apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Blackberry
Skype encrypts calls with AES 256-bit encryption
Viber is the closest competitor to Skype and is very popular with plenty of bonus features.
Ad-free app compatible with Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Blackberry
Desktop client for Windows, Mac, and Linux
Make one-to-one video calls, video conference calls, and also call regular mobiles and landlines
Connect with contacts just using their existing mobile numbers even if they aren’t Viber users
Transfer files and send instant messages through the Viber app
All calls are secured with end-to-end encryption
For Google users, Google Hangouts is a very convenient and easy to use video chat service.
Only Google users can use Google Hangouts, although Google users can now invite non-Google members to join a Hangouts video call through their web browser
Access Google Hangouts either through the web application or as a direct app on Android or iOS
Google Hangouts allows instant messaging and file sharing as well as video conferencing with up to 10 other participants
Video calls are only encrypted in transit
Facetime is the Apple video chat service which is like almost all Apple services in that it’s only available for iPhone, iPad, and iOS operating systems.
Facetime calls and video calls are as easy to make as a regular voice call
Sound and image quality is very high and call connections are reliable
Only video and audio calls available
No file sharing or instant messaging
Video calls can only be made from one user to another
Only Facetime users can connect over Facetime, but if you scroll through your Apple contacts you’ll be able to see who else is a user
ooVoo is very easy to use and full-featured, but it’s still not very well known.
‘Superclear’ technology for extremely high quality audio and video transmission during calls
In-app instant messaging, file sharing, and video conference calls available for up to 12 participants
Video call users can watch YouTube videos together via the desktop application, but you can’t share a screen
Desktop clients for Windows and Mac
Apps compatible with both Android and iOS
You can only connect with other ooVoo users
Calls are not encrypted at all
Tango is one of the earliest mobile video calling apps and it’s still fun and easy to use with plenty of features.
Send animated stickers and add filters and masks to your video calls
You can make video calls and leave video messages as well as play two-player games with the other person, but there’s no video conference option
Tango is available as a mobile app for Android and iOS and also via a desktop client for Windows
Video and audio quality can be disappointing, especially for users with lower bandwidth
Useful feature to search for users outside of your contacts and get in touch
Two-camera option that shows both your face and your surroundings at the same time
Although Facebook is extremely famous as a social media platform, the video calls service isn’t yet as well known.
Facebook offers fairly good call quality although calls can be dropped if you’re calling overseas
You can make calls directly through the Facebook Messenger mobile app for Android and iOS, or use the web browser version on any internet browser
You can only make a video call with another registered Facebook user, but given that almost everyone is on Facebook that’s not too much of a restriction
Facebook allows video conferencing with up to 50 participants
Facebook video calls are not always encrypted, although Facebook is considering this
WhatsApp is most famous for instant messaging, but there are video chat capabilities as well.
WhatsApp is available as a mobile app for Android and iOS, but video chat is only on offer to iOS users
If you have the WhatsApp app on your phone, you can also set up WhatsApp Web on any browser or use the Windows or Mac desktop clients
Video call quality isn’t great and calls do get dropped if you’re using it overseas
You can use video conference features for up to 10 participants
WhatsApp also offers the well-known in app instant messaging and ability to share files, documents, and voice messages
All WhatsApp calls, including video calls, are secured with end to end encryption and WhatsApp have stood by their privacy and data protection policies admirably
IMO is a simple and streamlined video chat service for mobiles only.
IMO is available as an app for iOS and Android
IMO is very simple and easy to use: you just select a contact and press video call, and there are no complicated options and no video conference abilities
Video and audio quality when you make an IMO video call is usually reasonable, but it depends on your network coverage
Line is a highly popular Japanese video chat app for mobiles and desktop.
You can use Line for video calls, video conference calls, and instant messages and voice messages and also send stickers and photos through Line
Both video and audio quality through Line is very good and clear with limited call dropping
Video conference calls can be made by creating a group for joint video chat
Mobile app for Android and iOS and desktop clients for Windows and Mac
Whether you’re using video chat software for work or for fun or to keep in touch with relatives far away, there are plenty of top level video chat options to keep you connected.