The Best Group Video Calling and Meeting Apps for Self Isolation
It is no news that the whole world is currently battling a pandemic of staggering magnitude, and various businesses, schools, institutions, pubs, and restaurants are being closed to ensure social distancing and slow down the spread of coronavirus. Millions of people are now working from their homes, and this has led to digital work meetings and online conferences, remote playdates, and virtual chat parties. And all of these are being facilitated with the help of a variety of video meeting platforms.
Then again, not all platforms meet all the necessary parameters of efficiency. Whether you are attempting to socialise from a distance, prep for a crucial conference call with a prospective client, or check in on your family members, there are specific virtual meeting services for all of that.
Here, we have listed some of the services that will help you choose the most suitable platform and stay comfortably connected from the safety of your home.
FaceTime – Best for checking in on loved ones
It is the simplest app to use for a face-to-face communication, whether you want a long family meeting or makes a quick call to your loved ones. To get started, go to the relevant individual’s contact and press the FaceTime button and voila! If you are using Mac, you can keep a track record of those calls, much like Hangouts or Zoom.
This platform has also got many fun features. Like, it allows you to change your face into an Animoji or create live photos from your FaceTime calls. It is slick and intuitive, and being a native Apple feature, all of this is free. The only drawback is that these features make it ideal for socializing and not for business use. And, it lacks collaboration tools.
- Easy and straightforward to use
- Lots of fun features like Animojis, filters, and stickers, which can be used during video calls
- Supports up to 64 participants in a group video call
- End to end encryption of calls
- You need to have an Apple device
- Not suitable for business use, and lacks virtual background support and collaboration tools
Google Hangouts – Has Something for Both Professionals and Socialisers
You will find two versions of this app in the app store, which can make it slightly confusing. To clear it up, Hangouts Meet is the video calling version for businesses and enterprises, and Hangouts Chat is for text messaging purposes.
Hangouts might not be as impressive as Zoom, but, it does have ample features to host large collaborative meetings. With a G-Suite subscription, you can connect with a maximum of 250 people at the same time. One of its perks is that it can connect seamlessly with the G-Suite, meaning that the calendar invites will come straight to your Gmail inbox with a link for joining the meeting. This feature of large meeting sizes and other advanced paid features like recording and live streaming video meetings have been made available for free to all G-Suite users till July 1st, to help enterprises work better despite the COVID-19 situation.
The original free version has limited features though, as it allows up to 100 participants and only has the call-in option in a group video call. Then again, it is fun and interactive to use, as it has GIFs, emojis, and stickers.
- Has screen sharing and other vital collaborative tools
- Integration possible with Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Drive
- Works across all platforms – iPhone, Android, Mac and Windows
- End to end encryption of calls
- Lacks virtual background support
- You need to have a Google account
- UI might be a bit confusing
Facebook Messenger – Like Text Messaging, Superfast & Easy
The mobile app of Facebook lets you access the timeline, by just clicking the icon on your phone. Facebook Messenger is the messaging system of Facebook that you can access without needing to access the social networking site or app. You can instantly communicate with other Facebook users as the messaging app works faster than the actual Facebook app. You can also send files, links, and images that make it easier for collaboration. If you have Facebook you need to install the messenger app as you cannot read or send personal messages to someone else through the Facebook app.
- Makes easier and faster to chat than the main app or mobile browser
- It’s similar to texting but without the SMS and MMS charges
- Can send files, images, and links making it easier for office employees to collaborate
- User can make phone calls
- The terms and conditions include that recording of audio can be done at any time without permission and calling someone without intervention which is a major privacy breach
- It’s distractive and intrusive with constant message notifications
- Once activated the Messenger is continuously functioning in the background, that can drain the battery faster than expected
- Users using the Facebook app cannot send or even read messages unless they download the Messenger App
- The Facebook Messenger and Facebook App take up a combined storage space of 100+ MB which is a severe problem if you have limited space on your device
WhatsApp – The most Accessible, Everyone, and Anyone Has it
Used by more than a billion people worldwide, WhatsApp is the most popular messaging service out there. The video calling feature is baked right into the app and is straightforward to use. However, the video calling feature works best for personal and casual use and is not meant for business meetings or virtual conferences, and it lacks the necessary collaboration tools.
- Almost everyone uses this app
- The video calling process is extremely easy
- Calls are enabled with end-to-end encryption
- Group video calls allow a maximum of four participants
- Video calls can only be done from Android or iPhone and not from PC
- Lacks virtual background support
Apart from the ones mentioned above, the other popular video calling and meeting apps are Microsoft Teams, WebEx and Houseparty, each with its own set of strengths and limitations. What you choose will depend on your needs and tastes, whether it is to host virtual meetings or to connect with your loved ones. So, which service have you been using or will use from now on during this COVID 19 pandemic?
You may also love to read: Coronavirus Precautions: How to clean your iPhone and other Apple devices
(Note: Many readers might wonder why Zoom was not included in the list. Here’s the reason: Zoom as an App has a lot of features and enhancements, but we have deliberately not included it due to rising security concerns and the recent warning by Cyber Coordination Centre against using Zoom for personal or business use.)