Top video calling apps and how to use them
4th June 2020
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, video conference apps have been a saviour for many as it has allowed them to keep in contact with friends and family without putting themselves or others at risk.
The likes of Zoom and Google Hangouts have been a great way for people to get that much needed human interaction without humans being close or any physical contact.
If you have been on your own at home and need some social interaction, or you just want to know if there's a better option for online gatherings, then read on to find out the top video conference apps you can use.
Before you start browsing through the best video conference apps and how to use them, there are some things that you need to have in place:
- You need an internet connection
- A connected device with a camera and microphone built-in or attached.
The top video conference apps you can use
There are lots of video conference apps you can use but below are the best ones you can use to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues.
- Google Meet
Max number of participants: 100
Call duration: 40 minutes (free version for three or more people)
Zoom was originally used for business, but with the COVID-19 lockdown, the popularity of the video conference app has seen people use it for social calls and quizzes.
Sue Loncaric, a blogger at Women Living Well After 50, thinks Zoom is one of the best video conference apps you can use.
She said: “I personally like Zoom and I find it easy to use in setting up a meeting. I like the idea of having a number of participants and also the first 40 minutes is free which is a bonus for those wanting to use it for social rather than business purposes. Being able to record the meeting is also beneficial.
“I also have been working with a Virtual Fitness Studio with ladies who range in age from 50-80! They have all embraced Zoom and although some were challenged initially, they took up the challenge and are now very adept at using this app.
“Embracing technology has been a positive outcome during this period of COVID-19 isolation and social distancing. There are many who may not have bothered to try different technology to stay connected with others, however, because of the social restrictions they have had a reason to try. Many older people I’ve spoken with are loving this new way of communicating and I think apps like Zoom will certainly become a regular way of staying in touch.”
How to use Zoom
- Open an internet browser and head to the Zoom website and click on the sign-up button to create an account.
- Once you’ve signed up you can click on My Account and schedule, join or host a meeting at the top of the screen.
- On the left-hand side of the screen, there are a variety of options, including your profile. Here you can change your profile picture, edit your email address or password and make other changes in the settings. You can also sign in or out of Zoom on all devices at the bottom of the profile page.
- You can also download the Zoom desktop application or mobile application for more streamlined versions. The app is organised into four main tabs at the top of the screen: Home, Chat, Meetings, and Contacts. The home tab is where you can start a new meeting, join a current call, schedule a future event, or share your screen.
Max number of participants: 50 (free version)
Call duration: No time restrictions
Skype is another well-established video conference app that can be used on a number of devices. It comes pre-installed on Windows 10 PCs, can be used on any web browser and can be easily downloaded on Macs, tablets and mobile phones, meaning you could video call from your living room or even your stair lift!
Something that many first-time users can benefit from with Skype is the telephone support that they offer. If, for example, you don’t have internet access you can still join active Skype conversations by dialling in although these will be voice only. These types of calls are charged but prices vary depending on the country your calling and whether you sign-up for this feature.
Ben, who is behind The Digital Project Manager site, likes using Skype to keep in contact with friends and family.
“For video conferencing with friends and family, I'd recommend Skype, it's free, and easy to find, add, then ring your contacts. So, it's great to use with people you frequently contact. Skype also has a feature to 'Answer incoming calls automatically' which can be a great feature to activate when you're worried about not being able to get to your device quickly, but still want to make sure you answer your calls. With your volume turned up, it means friends and family can just call you and start talking to you instantly, without you having to do anything!”
Sue Loncaric from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond also likes using Skype: “During the last few months of isolation and social distancing, many elderly people have been cut off from family and friends. My 94-year-old mother-in-law is in aged care and we have been fortunate that the facility where she lives has introduced weekly Skype calls with family. It is a wonderful initiative to keep us all connected.”
How to use Skype
- Download Skype to your device
- The next step is to create a free account for Skype. You just need to enter your phone number or email address to start the process. You can create your account here.
- Once you have followed the simple steps to create your own account find out how to sign-in here. You just need to open Skype, enter your skype name, email or phone and select sign in. Then enter your password and select the arrow to continue.
- To set-up a meeting or call you just need to select the message or phone icon and select ‘Meet Now’ and you begin setting your call up.
Max number of participants: 100 (up to 250 with premium)
Call duration: up to 60 minutes
With the ongoing pandemic, Google has made the Meet video calling app free to all users and this has seen more people use it for social calls.
It is a secure and reliable video conference app and is used by lots of schools and businesses from all over the world. Users can access Google Meet on their web browser or download the app on any Android or iOS platform.
Ben from The Digital Project Manager blog would also recommend using Google Meet. He added: “For people you are video conferencing less frequently, Google Meet is great for setting up a free video conference, as you're able to quickly chat with people without adding them as contacts.”
Google Meet is now Google’s premium video conferencing software and the free version of Meet supports far more participants than Google Hangouts.
How to use Google Meet
- If you already use Gmail, YouTube or another Google product, you can just sign in to your existing Google Account to use Google Meet. If not, you can create a Gmail account here.
- Use any modern web browser to start a meeting or join one on your desktop or laptop or download the Google Meet app on Google Play or in the Apple Store.
- To create a new video meeting, you just need to log in to your existing Google Account or sign-up for free. You then just click on or tap ‘New Meeting’ to start a meeting.
- You can send a link or meeting code to anyone you want to join the meeting. If you are using the free version of Google Meet, your guests will need to create or sign-in to their existing Google Account. If you have been invited, you just need to click on the meeting link and enter the meeting code that your host has.
Max number of participants: 250
Call duration: Unlimited
GoToMeeting is another popular video conference app that you can use. There are lots of useful features, including instant meetings or meeting scheduling, meeting transcription tools and in-app meeting messaging between people on the call.
GoToMeeting does charge but you can start a 14-day free trial. Pricing ranges from £9.50 to over £12 and you can read about the different options here.
How to use GoToMeeting
- You’ll need to sign-up to GoToMeeting so you can organise a video call via the service, but you don’t need an account if you are just participating in a meeting and someone has invited you.
- Once your account has been set-up you can start to create meetings via the Hub webpage or the desktop app. If you are using a web browser you need to log in to your GoToMeeting Hub Page, click on the ‘Create Meeting’ button and then you are able to add the details for your planned meeting such as its title, the date of the meeting, time and duration. Those of you using the app can just click on ‘Meet Now’ or ‘Schedule Meeting’ to arrange your video call with your friends or family.
- After scheduling your meeting, you can then click on the ‘Copy Invitation’ button to copy the details of your meeting, which includes a link, and paste that information to the chosen attendees.
Max number of participants: 1 on free plan or 15 for paid-for plan
Call duration: Unlimited
Slack is a hugely popular chatroom app used by businesses from all over the world, but with its integrated video conferencing tool you can now use it to call your loved ones.
You don’t have to be a business to use it and as described in an article on How To Geek it can be used as a great personal tool.
“There are a ton of Slack apps to choose from that help you organise your life and generally make things easier — reminder apps, to-do apps, notes apps, you name it. And if a combination of those apps works great for you, then that’s awesome.”
Video conferencing is an add-on to the functionality of Slack and as part of its free account, you can enjoy one-on-one video chats. If you want to chat with more people using Slack you will need to pay, but you can find out more about their pricing here. Slack can also be used to work with other tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
How to use Slack
- Start by heading to this web page to begin the process of creating your Slack Workspace. You just need to type in your email address and hit the next button.
- You then will be sent a confirmation code and you can then type this in when prompted.
- Type in your name and if you want you can type in a display name, but this is optional.
- The next step is to create your password and then some information about your ‘team’, but this doesn’t need to be specific.
- The next screen you will create a URL for your Workspace to finish your set-up.
- Download the Slack app so you can use it on all of your devices (desktop, laptop, mobile phone etc.).
- You can now create a channel in Slack and start having conversations with other friends and family that are using Slack.
Other useful video conference apps to consider
Houseparty is a relaxed group video chat app. Unlike the other video conference apps in this guide, you don’t get sent invitations and can just be added straight into a conversation if you are online. To download the app on your phone just go to the Google Play or App Store and download it for free.
On your mobile phone, you can download WhatsApp in the Google Play or App Store. Your contacts will automatically get added and after you have set-up a chat on WhatsApp you just need to press the camera button and switch it to video mode. Only four people can join a video call at once.
Apple FaceTime is a hugely popular video calling service for both one-on-one calls or group chats. It only works on Apple devices (iPhones, iPads and Macs). The video conference app is pre-installed on Apple devices so unlike other apps you don’t need to download it.
These are some of the most popular video conference apps that you can use and are great ways for older adults to keep in contact with family and friends. So, if you struggle with mobility problems and need aids like a walk in bath and are unable to see family or friends as much as you would like it might be worth considering using one of these video conference apps.
This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.