AmberMac Blog

Video Conferencing Software Options During COVID-19

While the social distancing required by the coronavirus pandemic can be hard on people, we’re lucky that we’ve got today’s technology to stay in touch with friends, co-workers, and loved ones alike. I’ll be writing more about video conferencing but to start with, here are a few options for you to try (or share with those you’d like to see on the other end of your call). [Psst. Check out our subsequent post on Video Conferencing Tips for Better Audio & Video Quality, too – your friends and co-workers will thank you! 🙂 ]

Simple Options for Families & Friends

When deciding on video conferencing options for you family and friends, it probably makes sense to consider what social networks they’re part of (e.g. Messenger, WhatsApp) and/or what devices (FaceTime) or existing accounts (e.g. Hangouts, Skype) they have.

Facebook Messenger Video Chat

Free – Mobile & Web – More Info

Are you already on Facebook? Then all you have to do is log in, open Messenger, and select the Camera icon. It’s easy for beginners and can handle up to 50 callers at once (but only 6 onscreen). There are also some neat camera effects and beauty filters you can use to spruce things up. Oh, and check for updates in Messenger app on mobile if you’re having issues.

Apple FaceTime

Free – Mobile, Web & Desktop – More Info

Apple’s FaceTime is built into its phones, tablets, and computers, so it’s a natural if everyone you’re dealing with are Apple users. It’s also very easy to use and can handle up to 32 video callers at once.

Google Hangouts

Free – Mobile & Web – More Info

Do you have a Gmail account? Well, Google Hangouts has been around a while now and you can start a chat right from inside Gmail (or using a Google Calendar invite, or a few other ways – see More Info above). You can easily send a link to anyone you want to add to the call and it can handle up to 25 video callers simultaneously.

Skype Video Calls

Free – Mobile, Web & Desktop – More Info

Skype is probably the grand-daddy of this list. It requires you to create an account, download software, and add contacts to reach out to (who also must install Skype), so it’s potentially not as simple as the options above. That said, it can handle up to 50 video callers at once and you can even blur your video background if it’s messy.

WhatsApp

Free – Mobile – More Info

This one is mobile-only, but WhatsApp has such a big base of users that I wanted to include it as well. This (now) Facebook property can handle up to 4 video callers at a time, so it’s better for smaller groups and one-on-ones.

Advanced Options for Working at Home

Working from home when you’re part of a team can be challenging. If you’ve already had to overcome this challenge prior to the coronavirus pandemic then your organization probably has a go-to platform. If not then here are a few you might want to consider.

Zoom

More Info

Zoom has been getting a lot of press lately as one of the more common large group platforms for video chats. While there is a free tier, you will need to subscribe for ~$15 or more each month if you want to have calls with more than two people that last over 40 minutes (per session). It’s got cool features like polling and virtual backgrounds (depend on your device) plus lets you share files and much more.

Microsoft Teams

More Info

If you’re using Microsoft Teams then it’s almost certainly because your work has adopted it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a solid platform. It’s a paid platform (~$10 and up per user per month) as is typically bundled in with a bunch of other Microsoft products. Online meetings (audio, video, and web conferences) can happen with anyone and include features like meeting recording, note taking, and more.

Slack

More Info

We use Slack messaging for work, but did you know it also does video conferencing? You can use Slack Calls with video or audio, but note that the people involved need to be part of your workspace, so this can be limiting.

BlueJeans

More Info

Finally, I wanted to mention BlueJeans Meetings. BlueJeans is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android, and works on all major web browsers, so you’ve got a lot of options device-wise. For $10 and up (only the host needs to subscribe), you can have up to 50 (on the lowest plan) participants, unlimited meetings, video pinning (great if you want to stay focused on a single speaker for a while), and hours of meeting recording. Higher priced options even include third-party integrations for Slack and Microsoft Teams.

Which of these do you use? Let us know on social if we missed any great options – and stay safe out there! Want something fun to play on a video conference? Try our free TRIVIA: Video Conference Edition suggestion.