Christmas will be a little different this year. Instead of visiting their loved ones, many people around the world only have video chat. At least virtually, we can stay in touch with family, friends and colleagues. TECHNOLOGY BUTTON introduces the best video chat programs.
Especially in the current time, many people are looking for a way to stay in touch with loved ones without having to leave the house. That works quite well over the phone and messenger. However, it is often better to see the person (s) you are talking to live. Closer contact is important to many, especially at Christmas. This is exactly where video chat programs come in, which allow the live transmission via camera on the smartphone, laptop or desktop PC. They are suitable for individual chats as well as for group meetings.
WhatsApp: Video chat with up to 8 people
WhatsApp is certainly the easiest method for many users to get in touch with friends and family at Christmas. After all, the messenger is widespread and offers video telephony for groups in addition to classic chat. The service is free and can also be used on the PC thanks to WhatsApp Web. Another plus is the availability on both Android and iOS devices, so that users can chat across platforms. Up to eight WhatsApp users can take part in a chat, which is sufficient for conversations within family or friends. However, the service is less suitable for meetings within a large team.
To start a video chat via WhatsApp, callers click on the desired contact and then on the video camera symbol at the top of the service. Within a group you first have to tap the symbol with the telephone receiver and the plus and then select those contacts from the list of participants who you want to invite to the video chat. Once that’s done, the call begins with a click on the video camera icon.
Microsoft Teams for the big group
Microsoft Teams experienced a boom in 2020. Many companies use the program for internal and external communication with colleagues and business partners. The program has been part of Office 365 since 2017 and replaces the Skype for Business solution that was offered until then. Compared to Skype, Teams offers more options for HD video telephony but also for larger video conferences. This includes, for example, shared OneNote notebooks and file storage via SharePoint and OneDrive. Microsoft has also integrated an appointment scheduler linked to the Outlook calendar into Teams.
Teams is also a good tool for private video chat with each other. The program is free and only requires you to enter a private or business email address to register. It can be used on a PC, but also on Android smartphones and iPhones. Microsoft Teams allows up to 300 chat partners to participate at the same time and is available worldwide in 40 languages. For owners of an Office 365 Business Premium account, the person limit within chats does not apply, participation is unlimited.
Google Meet, formerly Hangouts
A relic from earlier times? Not at all! What used to be called Hangouts has now moved to Google Meet. The service is particularly interesting for Google users, because with a click on the start button for a video chat, you will immediately see all contacts saved via Google. Meetings can also be planned using the new Google Meet app. Up to 250 participants can be invited via link. The program can be used free of charge on the desktop, but also via app on the iOS and Android smartphone.
Facetime: The solution from Apple
Facetime is the ideal solution for Apple users. The voice and video calling app is pre-installed on all Apple devices – and only works with them. For this, users of an iPhone, iPad, Mac and Co. can very easily initiate video conferences with their contacts. This can be done either from the app itself, from group chats or from the contact directory. Calls over Facetime are free, but they consume data volume in the cellular network. Up to 32 people can video chat.
To use Facetime, users need at least an iPhone 4, an iPad 2 or iPad mini, an iPod touch (4th generation) or a Mac with Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later.
Skype, the classic among video chat programs
Everyone has probably heard of Skype (not to be confused with Skype for Business). The service has been around since 2003 and “Skype” has almost become synonymous with video telephony. Skype can be used free of charge and installed on a PC or smartphone. For those in a hurry or those who only want to start a chat via Skype from time to time, the service also offers the option of starting a video call via the browser – without registration and with up to 99 participants. That makes it very practical, especially at Christmas. To do this, users simply generate a link that they forward to all participants in the video chat.
Even deaf people can use Skype without any problems, because subtitles can be displayed if desired. The service converts all words into text that are spoken during an audio or video call.
Jitsi Meet can be added to Slack
This free and open source service Jitsi Meet (Bulgarian for “wires” or “cables”) is largely based on the open WebRTC standard and enables encrypted communication between participants. Users can use it via smartphone apps for iOS and Android or in the browser on the PC. Jitsi Meet can also be integrated into Slack. Up to 15 people can video chat.
The service offers features such as text messaging, screen sharing and video conferencing. And registration is also practical, as you don’t need a user account and participants can simply invite via a link, just like with Skype.