Your guide to the best free video calling apps
Life was tough in lockdown, whether it was juggling the working from home thing or not being able to work at all. But there’s been plenty of silver linings too, and one of those as has been the realisation that we can continue to work and stay in touch with friends and family digitally. Over the last month or so, video calling apps have helped us do this by making face-to-face communication with work colleagues, customers and loved ones easy, wherever they are in the world.
These platforms are likely to become a bigger part of our lives, whatever level we’re at. So here’s our round-up of the best and most reliable free video calling apps, as well as some tips on how you can get set up and chat the day away.
You don’t need a Facebook profile to download the Messenger app. You can access the video chat from the website (in the main navigation), or you can download the app for your smart device. The video chat feature also includes filters so you can have a bit of fun playing virtual dress-up. Video chatting is free as long as you’re on Wi-Fi.
Messenger is available on iOS and Android devices.
FaceTime is as easy as making a phone call but it’s only available to Apple users. To FaceTime, you go to your contacts, click the person you want to chat with and you should see the FaceTime icon right there. FaceTime also lets you change your appearance to your customised ‘Memoji’ and easily lets you take Live Photos so you can capture all the fun.
To use it, sign in with your Apple ID - you can do this from Settings > FaceTime. Your iPhone should automatically register your phone number, but you can also set up your email address by going to Settings > FaceTime > Use your Apple ID.
Have you heard of Google Duo? It’s relatively new from Google and it’s free to use from any device. It allows you to chat with up to 12 people from your phone’s contact list. It features the ‘Knock Knock’ feature which shows you live video of your caller before you answer. Google Duo also boasts end-to-end encryption so your calls will always be private.
Google Duo is available on iOS and Android devices.
Zoom has been a popular choice for businesses, but it’s also great for keeping in touch with your loved ones. The tiled view allows you to see everyone on the screen at one time (similar to the Brady Bunch intro) so you won’t miss any reactions. It even allows you to record your chat, which can be useful, particularly for business.
Zoom’s basic plan is free and allows you to host up to 100 participants – which should accommodate even the biggest of family reunions. However, there’s a 40-minute limit on group meetings.
Zoom is available on Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android apps.
Skype has been around for a long time and is still popular. It features HD video calling, whether you’re in a one-on-one chat or in a group of 50. Skype includes a lot of cool features, including screen sharing and live subtitles.
Skype is available on iOS and Android devices.
Get set up from the sofa
Video calling can get a little uncomfortable when there’s a few of you huddled around a single device. So why not do it in style - and from the comfort of your own sofa - by using your smart TV?
If your smart TV has a camera, simply download your preferred video calling app, and then you can chat live from your living room. If your TV connects straight to your modem you’ll also benefit from a stronger and more reliable signal, especially if you have fibre.