Best Free Video Chat Apps

Best Free Video Chat Apps

Best Free Video Chat Apps

Video chat apps were on the rise before current social distancing measures. Internet connection speeds keep getting better. Devices with a built-in camera keep getting smaller. Now with more of us staying at home video chat is more important than ever. It allows us to connect and see friends and family. For work is can make conference calls more engaging. Here’s a list of the best free video chat apps available, for work or socializing. See which one is the best for you and your social circle’s needs.

Facebook Messenger | FaceTime | Google Duo | Google Hangouts | Houseparty | Skype | WhatsApp

Best Video Chat App for You


The coronavirus outbreak has pushed a lot of people to work from home, many for the first time. Even more people are practicing social distancing. Don’t panic. At the end of the day you’re doing the same job. And you can still reach out to friends and family. But you’ll need to do so with a different toolset. This site is here to help you make the changes needed to make the most of the situation.


Facebook Messenger, among the best free video chat appsFacebook Messenger

https://www.messenger.com

Best for anyone regularly on Facebook

  • Works with: iPhone, Android, Web Browser
  • Max number of users: 50
  • Pros: Supports text chat, most everyone has a Facebook account
  • Cons: No HD on Android, some people will refuse to use any Facebook product

Facebook Messenger is already available on most people’s computer. Messenger is built into Facebook, and will prompt when called. For mobile a dedicated app needs to be installed. One-on-one calls are simple. Select the person to call and hit the video button. Group calls involve creating a group and adding members of your friends list. It then calls everyone at once. Like a conference call that calls you instead of you it.

There have been movements to reduce or leave Facebook. So it won’t be surprising if a member of a large enough social circle isn’t comfortable using a Facebook product. Given the number of other options it may not be worth having that fight.


FaceTime, among the best free video chat appsFaceTime

https://support.apple.com/guide/facetime/welcome/mac

Best for social circles who all have iPhones, iPads, or Macs

  • Works with: Mac, iPhone, iPad
  • Max number of users: 32
  • Pros: Easy to use, built into Apple products
  • Cons: Apple only

Apple’s FaceTime is easy to use. Thanks to Apple having design control over the software and hardware involved. It is almost as easy as making a phone call. And FaceTime Audio allows you to make a phone call over Wi-Fi. If everyone you know has an Apple product it should be on your short list.

But that’s also the problem. It only works with Apple products. If anyone uses Windows and Android they can’t join in. For a smaller family circle you’re more like to all be using the same kind of phone. But for work and larger friend groups you’ll find it doesn’t work for everyone.

7 Ways To Look Better On A Webcam


Google Duo, among the best free video chat appsGoogle Duo

https://duo.google.com/about/

Best for social circles who mostly use Android, but also works with iPhone

  • Works with: iPhone, Android, Web Browsers
  • Max number of users: 8
  • Pros: Easy to use, pre-installed on Android
  • Cons: Not as well known as many other options

Google’s answer to Apple’s FaceTime. But unlike FaceTime they also have an app for the other side: iPhones. As well as a web browser function that works with all computers.

The smaller limit on users in one call helps with video and audio quality. But if you need something that handles more than 8 people Duo won’t work for you.


Google Hangouts, among the best free video chat appsGoogle Hangouts

https://hangouts.google.com

Best for organizations using G Suite

  • Works with: iPhone, Android, Web Browsers
  • Max number of users: 10 (Gmail), 25 (Business or Education accounts), 150 (text chat only)
  • Pros: Integrated with G Suite, most everyone has a Google/Gmail account
  • Cons: Older product that is losing long term support

Google Hangouts is a group instant text system. With voice and video call capabilities. It was best for organizations using G Suite. But anyone with a Gmail account can use it, too.

You can call someone directly to start a video call. Or you can launch a call by yourself and share an invite link with others. So long as someone is on the call the link will remain active. But once everyone leaves you’ll need a new link to start up again.

If you’re looking for a combination text and video chat solution it will work well, for now. With Google Duo’s release the future of Hangouts is uncertain.


Houseparty, among the best free video chat appsHouseparty

https://houseparty.com

Best for starting and expanding a group video call without scheduling in advance

  • Works with: Mac, iPhone, Android, Chrome Plugin
  • Max number of users: 8
  • Pros: Easy to start a video call and others on your friends list can easily see it and join in
  • Cons: 8 person limit prevents organic scaling of virtual social events

Unlike every other app on this list, Houseparty doesn’t need to be a spontaneous call. Or a pre-scheduled conference call. It allows people to come and go out of a group video call with ease. Like stopping by a party your friend is throwing. It also works to remove the anxiety about wanting to call and talk to someone, but having them not respond.

You open Houseparty and see your friends and who is active, like most apps. But by opening the app it sends a notification to your friends that you are there, indicating you want to talk. You can also “sneak into the house” if you prefer. You can also “wave” at someone, which again sends them a notification. And indicates your desire to talk. Either one of you can call the other.

Once a call starts anyone on either of your friends list can see the call and join in. If it is someone not on your friend list you get an alert. You can also “lock” a call, so only people invited in can join.

Besides video (and voice only) calls it supports screen sharing. There are also games that you can play during a video call. Including Heads Up, Trivia, Quick Draw, and more.

Webcam Alternatives for Conferences and Chat


Skype, among the best free video chat appsSkype

https://www.skype.com

Best known voice and video chat platform

  • Works with: Mac, Windows, iPhone, Android, Web Browsers, Xbox
  • Max number of users: 50
  • Pros: Top pick video call platform for years
  • Cons: Business features have been moved to Microsoft Teams

Microsoft’s Skype is one of the oldest voice and video call systems around. What started as a Voice-over-IP solution has kept up with the times. Today it offers video, voice, and text chat. But can still call mobile and landline phones, domestically and internationally.

You can call someone directly to start a video call. Or you can launch a call by yourself and share an invite link with others. So long as someone is on the call the link will remain active. But once everyone leaves you’ll need a new link to start up again.

Skype Business has been replaced with Microsoft Teams. Which is Microsoft’s answer to Slack.


WhatsApp, among the best free video chat appsWhatsApp

https://www.whatsapp.com

Best for a small circle of family or friends already using WhatsApp for texting

  • Works with: Mac, Windows, iPhone, Android
  • Max number of users: 4
  • Pros: Document sharing, popular texting app many people already use
  • Cons: Allows for fewest number of callers, some people will refuse to use any Facebook product

For smaller video call sessions WhatsApp works well for those already using the app for texting. You can call a friend. Or start a group call with up to 3 other people. Friends can be added to a call, too.

There have been movements to reduce or leave Facebook. So it won’t be surprising if a member of a large enough social circle isn’t comfortable using a Facebook product. Given the number of other options it may not be worth having that fight.


Best Video Chat App for You

All of the above apps are free, so you can try them all. But we can shorten the list of apps you need to consider. Based on your social group size. And what functionality you’re looking for.

In the end the best video chat app is one you and those you want to talk to will all use.

Group Size

  • 1-on-1 = FaceTime, Google Duo, Houseparty, Skype, WhatsApp
  • Immediate Family or Circle of Friends = FaceTime, Google Duo, Houseparty, Skype
  • Large Group = Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, Skype

Functionality

  • Easy To Use = FaceTime, Google Duo, WhatsApp
  • Effects = FaceTime, Google Duo, Houseparty, WhatsApp
  • Games = Houseparty
  • Screen Sharing = FaceBook Messenger, FaceTime, Google Duo, Google Hangouts, Houseparty, Skype
  • Work Teams = Google Hangouts, Skype
  • Work Conference Calls = Skype (also check out WebEx and Zoom, which I’ll be covering in a separate post)