Coronavirus lockdown: The best video calling apps for Android, iPhone and your web browser

Social distancing can take a walk

The Coronavirus lockdown may be an introvert’s dream, it’s a nightmare for the social butterflies (or even regular human beings) who just cannot sit in isolation and keep scrolling through their Instagram feeds until their eyes pop out.

While the corporate world has been skyping, zooming and hanging out (thanks to G Suite) for conference calls, it’s the regular folk (like yours truly) that now find the need to meet up in groups to keep their sanity in check, thanks to the pandemic that is Coronavirus and the need for social distancing.

So here are the best video calling apps for mere mortals that are not just quick to set up but easy to use as well.

One thing to note is that every app/service takes a different angle to video calling, so we do recommend giving each one a shot until you find the one that suits you the best.

Google Duo

Pricing: Free

Works on: Android, iPhone, iPad, web browser

Group video call capacity: 8 users (12 during the pandemic)

Google Duo has been quite a hit from the very beginning. While it comes preinstalled on most Android smartphones (akin to Apple’s FaceTime), Duo lets you video call users on other platforms as well. It’s free and is available as an app on Android, your web browser and also for iPhones and iPads. Group call capacity of 12 may not be the highest these days but certainly seems enough to get your college friends chatting up. Google claims that Duo has been optimised for low speed connections, so that’s a big plus when everyone’s working from home and your internet connection is crawling. And it’s easy to use as well. Setting up is quick and you will only need your mobile number to connect you to your friends or family. On Android, it’s just a couple of taps.

Houseparty

Pricing: Free

Works on: Android, iPhone, iPad, macOS and web browser

Group video call capacity: 8 users

Houseparty is a new entrant in this space but is built on different principles. Houseparty is a mix of video calling and a social network. And on this network, you don’t put up posts but simply group call up your friends and, well... be the real you, whether you are doing your house chores, cooking food, giving your pet a bath, or whatever it is that social distancing has got you interested in these days. And as with any party, there are rules – no bullying, trolling, pornography and nudity. Signing up is easy (takes about 1-2 minutes) and then you're up and running (you can even sign up using your Snapchat account). The interface is easy to use as well; the only problem here is that your party will always be limited to 8 people, so.. be picky about who you invite!

Zoom

Pricing: Free for 40 minute calls (plans start from $14.99)

Works on: Android, iPhone, iPad, web browser

Group video call capacity: 100 users

A big hit with the corporates and startups, Zoom is not all that bad for the common man, provided you can tolerate a few things. The interface is clunky at best, but what makes it interesting is that you just have to install the app on your phone to join a call. So if you are 20 people joining on a call, you just need one registered user (who creates the con call and gives out the ID) while the rest just need to install the app and punch in the pin to get on a call. And since it’s built for corporates, you can literally share screenshots from your device, or files from web storage and plans for your next vacation (that isn’t happening thanks to COVID-19). However, there is a catch, you can only call for 40 minutes using a free account, but that’s not bad given that most of us are stuck at home staring at a wall and have nothing to discuss anyways. Where Zoom wins hands-down is when it comes to the group calling limit. That’s a 100 people for a free account (paid users can get more folks connected). Enough said!

Skype

Pricing: Free (Skype credit needed for placing international calls)

Works on: Android, iPhone, web browser, Xbox, Alexa devices

Group video call capacity: 50 users

The grand daddy of VoIP calling is clearly not far behind when it comes to video calling. While it’s super easy to join an ongoing con call, you will still have to sign up to start your own call. But once set up, this one has a ton of features that should keep you glued to the platform. This includes the good old VoIP audio calling, getting your own Skype number, and even getting subtitles of what’s been spoken on the call while it's happening. You also have tricks like background blur that works for all phones unlike Duo’s smart zoom and blur that only works on Pixel devices. There’s also screen sharing for making future plans to meet up in person (whenever that’s possible).

WhatsApp

Pricing: Free

Works on: Android, iPhone, web browser

Group video call capacity: 4 users

Everyone’s favourite chatting app is also a good platform for video calls in these times of social distancing, just that it is a bit limited when it comes to features. While one-on-one video calls are easy to execute, group video calls also work well but are limited to just 4 users. Moreover, video and audio quality are a far cry from services like Google Duo, so we recommend using this one only for one-on-one video calls.

Hangouts

Pricing: Free

Works on: Android, iPhone, iPad, web browser

Group video call capacity: 10 users (25 for work/education accounts)

Yep, good old Hangouts still exists, and it exists alongside Google Duo that is a more straightforward app when it comes to placing video calls. It’s in this list solely because everyone who uses Gmail can simply connect with friends and family either directly from their desktop or by downloading the Hangouts app for mobile. There’s literally no sign up process, because everyone has a Gmail account. While Hangouts is now reserved mainly for the G Suite and business users, it’s still a useful app because it’s always available even though it’s no longer the coolest way to place a video call and more because Duo stole the limelight.