Micron, the latest and most contagious SARS-CoV-2 variant to date, is wreaking havoc halfway around the world in the sixth wave of the COVID pandemic. Whether as a measure of protection and personal responsibility or to comply with the restrictions that governments are imposing, we fear that Christmas 2021 will be the Christmas of the world will have to be just as ‘homey’ it is preferable to stay healthy, there will be time in the future to resume physical contact… And get vaccinated… Although that would be enough for another kind of article that goes beyond our scope.
In any case, there are other ways to stay connected with family and friends. Even if it’s virtually. And we are talking about video conferencing applications. They have always been widely used, but in 2020, because of the confinements, they became the most searched, downloaded and used software group. And this year almost the same, both for family connection, as to cover the needs of telework or study at home that the situation of the pandemic has forced to maintain.
In case you do not know all the available offer and want to have these applications at hand, we remind you the 10 most interesting ones for the main desktop and mobile operating systems. All of them are free, and some of them are open source and multiplatform.
An extremely interesting project,Â 100% free, open source, private, private and you don’t need neither registration nor installation. Jitsi started out as a clone of Microsoft Messenger, but with multi-protocol support, and over time its development veered towards the field of Skype-style VoIP solutions. It is now one of the most powerful proposals in its category for work groups, although it is available for private users.
It left behind some security and privacy issues with updates and remains one of the most widely used video conferencing applications because of its user-friendly interface, fun backgrounds, or scalability for multi-device use. It is actually a complete video conferencing package aimed at business users, but offers an attractive free option.
Users with this type of account can host video conferences for up to 100 participants, though meetings of three or more members are limited to 40 minutes in length.Â You can upgrade to a paid plan to remove these restrictions or simply keep the free one that allows you to make phone calls, record video or audio locally, and share screens with other participants. Zoom can be used via the web,Â with dedicated applications, browser extensions, and mobile devices using apps forÂ iOSÂ andÂ Android.
3.- Google Meet – Duo
Google has replaced Hangouts with Meet, a tool that was born for educational and business segments and has ended up reaching all users. Google relaxed some restrictions because of the pandemic and any Google user can make group video conferences of up to 250 participants regardless of their level of subscription in commercial solutions G Suite and G Suite for Education.Â It is available for iOS, Android and via web browser on any computer.
Google offers other video conferencing apps as an enhancement to a Hangouts that never quite exploded. More simple and specialized than Meet, Google Duo was created by Justin Uberti (responsible for the WebRTC communications standard) and was born as an alternative to FaceTime and all that has come from messaging services.Â Google expanded its capacity for group calls up to 32 participants Works great (especially on Android), offers great streaming quality and is also available for iOS, Chrome OS and via the Web.
Apple’s communications application is a preferred option for users of the Cupertino firmÂ It works through a phone number or Apple ID and allows audio or video calls with up to 32 participants at a time.
FaceTime is integrated into the recent calls list in the Phone app and can also be used from the Contacts app. It allows you to use effects to turn the user into an Animoji, send stickers and other features.Â It works from Wi-Fi networks or cellular services and supports iOS, iPadOS or macOS operating systems, to work on an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and also from a Mac computer.
5.- Microsoft Teams – Skype
Microsoft is pushing Teams as unified communication and collaboration platform. An evolution of Skype for Business, its business focus is clear as it combines persistent chat, file storage and collaboration and application integration, especially with the Office suite. But it is also used as a videoconferencing application and has free versions for all versions of Windows, macOS, iOS and Android, and also via web.
Another of those available is Skype.Â Microsoft’s proprietary software after acquiring what was the best VoIP platform on the market, it allows text, voice and video communications over the Internet (VoIP)Skype-to-Skype, free voice and video between Skype users to and from anywhere in the world, in addition to allowing special calls at very low cost, between computers and fixed or mobile phone networks. It works on Windows, macOS or Linux; Android, Windows Phone and iOS. It is also compatible with most smart TVs and can be used on consoles such as Xbox.
The Skype Meet Now variant, allows video conferencing without the need to register anywhere, or download and install any applications. Just go to the Skype Meet Now website and with one click, generate a link to share with those you want to chat with. They include the ability to record calls or share the screen with the same limit of participants (50) of the general application.
6.- Cisco Webex
CISCO is a name generally associated with commercial enterprise products, usually beyond the reach of everyday users. But it also has solutions such as Webex, a free and robust option for those looking for basic video conferencing applications.Â It allows you to host up to 100 participants on a single call, for as long as you want. There is no limit to the number of calls you can make, and with a free account you get 1 GB of cloud storage.
Webex allows users from up to 52 countries to use a standard phone to join any conference.Â Participants who wish to use their webcams can choose from a website, dedicated desktop apps, or mobile apps forÂ iPhoneÂ andÂ AndroidÂ with their own screen-sharing features.
If you are looking for a safe and private alternative that is not part of a company’s business, here is an open source solution whose blunt definition sets it apart from other commercial ones:Â Â “Tox is made by people who are fed up with the existing options that spy on us, track us, censor us, and prevent us from innovating.
Maybe you fear a lousy interface or a confusing configuration, but that’s not the case. Just install qTox (the full-featured application) or uTox (intended for lighter systems) and start chatting. Tox is completely free and ad-free. It offers secure chats, voice and video calls, plus unlimited screen sharing and file sharing. Tox has desktop versions for Windows, Mac and Linux, and mobile versions for iOS and Android.
Contrary to what its name suggests, it is not a free service by default.Â It is a paid premium service, but it does offer a decent free option that can be useful for basic cases.Â FreeConference only supports up to 5 video conference participants at the free level. What makes FreeConference shine is its support for up to 1,000 audio participants to call in over the phone.
The service also takes a software-free approach to video calling, allowing most users to connect only from a browser. It also offers mobile apps for iPhone and Android, which are open to free users.
A classic option offering all standard featuresincluding group chats, video calls and stickers. If you switch devices often, you’ll appreciate Viber’s transfer feature that lets you move calls to a mobile phone.
Viber features public chats (called Communities) that let you connect with others if you don’t have friends to message and has built-in games if you want to compete with your friends. Viber doesn’t stand out for any particular reason, but it’s a solid application. To use it on desktop, you’ll first need to sign up on your mobile phone to sync your account.
10.- Whatsapp – Telegram – Line
We leave for the end the solutions of three great instant messaging applications Although they are not the best videoconferencing applicationsThey also offer these kinds of features and are sure to be used on a massive scale because of their versatility, ease of use and because they are installed on hundreds of millions of devices.Â You know them well and they work directly on top of messaging clients, including video calls, voice and text messages.
As for Lineis another well known messenger (though massively used in Asia) that allows you to easily keep up with friends and family. It offers free video calls, voice calls and group text messages. Also thousands of animated stickers although most of them are paid through in-app purchases.