How to Choose the Best Video Chat App
We look at the features that set the leading video chat apps 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. Today’s platforms offer a variety of options, from subscription-based software to wildly popular free video chat apps that are gaining users by the millions. 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 the best video chat apps 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
Best overall: Zoom
Today’s go-to for all things video conferencing, Zoom is a reliable and simple-to-use platform that’s being used for everything from work meetings to webinars, yoga classes, and digital family gatherings.
- Zoom allows up to 1,000 participants and 10,000 viewers at once
- You can send out invitations with a simple link
- High-quality video and sound
- Sync with your calendar and join from any device
- Zoom lets you record meetings for future reference
Best for calling friends: FaceTime
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
Best for in-app messaging: WhatsApp
WhatsApp is most famous for instant messaging, but there are video chat capabilities as well.
- WhatsApp is one of the best video chat apps for Android as well as iOS
- 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
Best for group chats: Skype
Along with Zoom, Skype is the best-known video chat service around. 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
Best for fun filters: Marco Polo
A non-live video messaging app, Marco Polo allows users to record and send face-to-face video messages to each other with fun filters and effects.
- Free and compatible with iOS and Android devices
- Start group conversations or send 1-to-1 video messages
- Record video messages with voice effects and visual filters
- Store videos in the cloud without wasting storage
Best for bonus features: Viber
Viber is the closest competitor to Skype and is very popular with plenty of bonus features.
- Ad-free app compatible with Android, iOS and Windows Phone
- 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
Best for playing games: House Party
House Party lets you instantly join live video chats with friends where you can play live games, take quizzes, and conference with those you love.
- Simply log on and instantaneously see which of your friends are online and available to chat
- Pulls your contacts from social media apps like Facebook and Snapchat
- Play trivia and drawing games with friends while chatting through video
- Includes share screen functions
- Allows you to send and receive pre-recorded video messages
Best for Office 365 fans: Microsoft Teams
Microsoft users can use Microsoft Teams to communicate and collaborate through video meetings, chat, tags, and pins.
- Create your own teams and channels for customized conferences
- Record meetings for future reference
- High-quality 2-way video and sound feeds
- Compatible with desktop and mobile devices
Best for Google and G Suite users: Google Hangouts
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 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
Best for Facebook addicts: Facebook Messenger
Although Facebook is extremely famous as a social media platform, Facebook Messenger isn’t quite as well known for its video chat features.
- 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
Find a Way to Keep in Touch That Suits You
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.