4 Free Video Apps to Stay Connected
For those of us who are fortunate to be healthy and home during this pandemic, it can be difficult when we’re away from our loved ones. Especially in this age of social distancing, it’s important now more than ever to stay connected to our friends and family.
As we all do our part to flatten the curve, protect our families and vulnerable communities and slow the spread of the coronavirus, video apps on your mobile device or computer are a great way to remain connected with your loved ones in a virtual face-to-face video chat, whether your friends and family are 3,000 miles away or just down the street.
All you need is a device with a camera and a good internet connection. Here are 4 free video chat apps you can use to help you stay in touch while you’re social distancing.
If you have an iPhone, iPad or Mac, you might be familiar with FaceTime, Apple’s built-in video chatting app. It’s incredibly easy to set up and use — here’s a quick tutorial from Apple — and just like any video app, make sure you have a stable internet connection. We always recommend connecting to your WiFi when you’re home.
FaceTime allows up to 32 people in a group chat, which is great for connecting with a lot of friends and family at once. You’ll need at least an iPhone 6s or a newer iPad with a recent iOS update to enable group chats. Here’s some info from Refinery29 with more details.
But one caveat: FaceTime only supports other Apple users, so if some of your loved ones don’t own Apple products, you still have other options that will work on your iOS device.
Google Duo is the video and audio chat app made by Google — think FaceTime for Android. Google Duo supports face-to-face chats for as many as 12 people, having recently increased the platform’s eight-person limit acknowledging on Twitter that the company “recognize(s) group calling is particularly critical right now.”
The app is extremely easy to use with a clean interface, and it’s available for across all platforms, including iOS, Android and on the web. Download it from Google Play, the App Store or use it straight from your web browser.
Before the pandemic, you probably hadn’t heard of Zoom, the remote tele-conferencing platform. Today, Zoom seems to be everywhere — from students who are distance learning and employees working from home to virtual religious services, book clubs, happy hours, and of course, group chats with family and friends. Downloads of the app have surged in the last month, and Zoom now claims 200 million daily users.
A free Zoom account allows up to 100 people in a group meeting, but calls are limited to 40 minutes each. However, since connecting over Zoom isn’t tied to your phone number, setting up an account and coordinating video chats can be a little more difficult or time consuming. Zoom has also come under fire recently for lax security measures on the platform, and as we mentioned in a previous blog post, the recent phenomenon of “Zoom bombing” can make for an uncomfortable or unsafe chatting environment.
Sign up for a free Zoom account here.
Founded nearly 20 years ago — now owned by Microsoft — Skype is one of the original video chatting platforms and dominated the market for years. In recent months, Skype has also seen a massive flood of downloads as Americans continue to social distance during this crisis.
Skype is free to use when contacting other Skype users and supports up to 32 people in a video chat. The application offers a feature called “Meet Now” that offers “video chat Zoom-like functionality” so you can contact people who don’t have an account or the app. Here’s how to get started with Skype.
Skype is installed by default on Windows 10 computers, and users of other operating systems can download the program for free. You can also find Skype from Google Play and the App Store.