Best (Free) Video Conferencing Apps
As the world is encouraged to self-isolate because of corona, and we here in South Africa are on lockdown, we need to find creative ways to continue our daily lives. In order to keep businesses and well, pretty much anything going, video conferencing has become of vital importance. From work meetings and classrooms going digital and to friends hosting virtual parties, we are now quickly seeing that not all video conferencing platforms are created equal and we need to pick a video conferencing app that best suits our needs.
Video Conferencing For Work
This might be the most convenient video conferencing app simply because anyone who already has a gmail account can access Google hangouts. This service allows for up to 10 people to chat in a video call, simultaneous direct chatting, and also allows participants to join a conference via a shareable link or email. Can’t forget to mention the feature of google calendar compatibility which can be great for keeping to a schedule with your co workers.
The overall consensus is that the video quality can sometimes be too blurry, and sometimes the chat versus video feature can be too confusing. The bottom line is that this was designed for small to medium-sized groups/offices. Not the ideal service for large corporate use.
This seems to be the most popular conferencing app, the best part is that it’s free- well, for 40 minutes at least. If you have 20 people in your office and you’re trying to have a group conference call, this app makes that possible. In fact Zoom can host video conferences for up to 100 participants, but keep in mind if you are using this with more than 3 people, you will be limited to 40 minutes. It also has a ‘screen sharing’ feature for those meetings that require it. It has all the bells and whistles!
This video conferencing platform can be confusing, you need a link or a user ID to join a meeting even if that contact is in your address book. The interface, although easy to use, can be a bit of a put off because it’s a little archaic than all the other options available out there.
Yes, believe it or not Skype is still around. As of 2019 they have allowed up to 50 participants at once for free. Also if you’re a company that uses Microsoft services then Skype is ideal, Skype For Business is part of Microsoft Teams, a communication platform with very similar features to the popular office chatting service, Slack. This is much more than just a video conferencing app, it also allows you to hold Q&A sessions, post polls and more.
Unfortunately, Skype still has a lot of connectivity issues. The app freezes up a lot which can be irritating, especially when you are making international calls. Moreover you have to have an account to access Skype.
This lesser-known video conferencing platform is a premium service, they do however have a free option. For the free option it supports up to five participants at once *but* allows up to 1000 audio participants. The main attraction is that you don’t have to download any software to use the app, you can use it straight from your browser and avoid all those hassles. This app also allows replays of your meetings – in case somebody wasn’t able to attend live, although during the time of Corona, where are you really going to be?
The downside of this video conferencing app is that it really doesn’t support enough users, video chat-wise at least. If you want any of the customisation features, like extra storage, skipping the access code before entering a virtual meeting or even having a custom greeting, then you’re going to have to pay for it.
For Staying In Touch With Your Friends
This app has been around since 2016 but obviously since we are in the midst of a global pandemic and have been forced to stay indoors, this app has seen a surge. This app notifies you when people are ‘in the house’ as in who is online, and you can go in and see who is chatting with who, best of all you can join in to pre-existing chats. You also are able to ‘lock’ a room if you only want to chat with specific people and without the interruption of others. There are also free games for you and your friends to play with. It has the capability to hold up to 8 users at a time making it a real “party”.
You can only play some of the games available, the rest are in-app purchases so if you’re not willing to shell out some cash this can be annoying. Not really a con per se but this app is more designed for a younger demographic so it can be a little off-putting to the older generation as a video “conferencing” app.
Facebook’s video chat feature is surprisingly great. The video quality is superb, can support up to 8 people at a time, and has the feature to add silly face filters to spice up those chats. You don’t have to download a separate app, it’s an option that is already available to you within your FB Messenger app.
Almost everyone around the world has or has heard of Whatsapp, so it’s no surprise that Whatsapp has a video chat option. Just go to an already existing Whatsapp chat with the person you want to video chat with and simply click the little video camera on the top right hand corner. Their main draw is that this app focuses on privacy, so you can rest easy knowing that your conversations are private.
The audio on the video chat isn’t fantastic, there is almost alway a lot of ‘what did you say’ back and forth. It can also only hold up to 4 users at a time, so if you’re wanting to chat to more of your friends then this feature on the app may not be for you. It’s helpful to know that the person who starts the call is the only one able to add new participants.
Video Conferencing Blunders
Take precaution when on a video conference call with others, you don’t want to end up like those poor souls who have had some grave mishaps. Whether it be sharing your screen and not realising that you have something inappropriate up or forgetting that your camera is on and being caught in a compromising position like the girl below.
Or this boss who couldn’t figure out to change the settings on her screen:
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO IF YOU SUSPECT YOU MAY BE INFECTED
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has a toll-free number for the public that deals with Covid-19 related issues or questions: 0800 029 999. The line is operated 24 hours a day.
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