The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and for many of us, it will look different this year due to the pandemic. Even though we may have fewer in-person gatherings with family and friends this year, we can still see each other using video-call apps. You are probably already familiar with Apple’s Facetime app, but since that is only available to Apple users, we’ve left it off the list. The following apps don’t require any particular device or membership in a social network, (they may require a free account registration) and they are free for non-business use. Here are our top choices ( in no particular order):
This one almost goes without saying, but we’ll list it anyway. Zoom was initially focused on business conference calls but has experienced a sudden growth in popularity for personal use this year. During the first wave of that unexpected surge in usage, Zoom experienced some security problems, but they quickly fixed things, and now users can feel secure with end-to-end encryption included on all calls.
Zoom has an easy to use interface for mobile devices as well as desktop and laptop computers. You can choose to have a one to one conversation or add up to 100 other participants. The only downside is that Zoom limits calls of over two people to only 40 minutes. That’s going to feel restrictive to those trying to use Zoom for a virtual holiday party, but it may be sufficient for more casual virtual gatherings.
Skype Meet Now
Skype has been around since 2003. In the old days, you could only make one to one calls, but now they have a feature called Meet Now that allows up to 50 people to video conference together (click the “meet now” button on the left side of the app.) Registering for the free app allows you to record a call and keep it for up to 30 days, blur your background, and share presentations. The best part about this app is that there are no restrictions or time limits on calls. You could have up to fifty people on and talk for as long as you want. That makes Skype Meet Now perfect for a virtual holiday party.
Microsoft Teams and Whatsapp
Built as a competitor to Slack, Microsoft teams has focused mainly on business communication until recently. They now have a free version available for personal use. It only works on mobile devices, but it allows users to chat, send pictures and videos, talk, and have video meetings with up to 20 people. This app would be great for staying in touch with multiple family members on a day to day basis and also for virtual parties of twenty or less.
Whatsapp is another mobile app that has similar capabilities, it lets you talk, chat and video call. The only downside is that video calls are limited to 8 people. If that doesn’t bother you then check it out as an alternative to Microsoft Teams. Whatsapp is the better choice for those who would like to keep in contact with international friends and family. All communications on Whatsapp are free no matter what country you are calling or texting.