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Zoom is all buzz nowadays but there are other free options if you want to do video conferencing

While the world battles coronavirus pandemic, there is an app that has seen its fortunes soar: Zoom. It is a video conferencing app but there are also other free and easy options available.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Zoom is a video conferencing app that has gained a lot of popularity in the last one month.
  • Zoom lets people work from home and hold video meetings with their colleagues.
  • But zoom has limitations and for individuals there are possibly better options available.

You can say that Zoom came out of nowhere. A few weeks ago when people talked of video calls they would think of Skype. Or WhatsApp video calls. Or FaceTime, which is the default video calling app on Apple devices like iPhone. Then the coronavirus pandemic came, everyone or at least all who could -- moved to work from home and suddenly people were looking for an app that could let them do video conferencing with colleagues. That app turned out to be zoom, which is largely an enterprise app meant to be used by big companies and not individuals.

The rush for Zoom has made the app an household name just like Houseparty, another video communication app but aimed at fun and socialising and everyone is downloading and installing it. Zoom is topping charts in the Google Play store and the Apple iOS app store.

But here is nuance: Zoom is a good app but it may not be the best for all kinds of video conferencing and calls. In fact, chances are that you already have a great video conferencing app on your phone and unless you need to talk to 100 people at once and even for that there is an app superior to Zoom you don’t need to install a separate app.

If for this reason or that, you don’t want to use Zoom for example one reason is that a free Zoom video call cannot last more than 40 minutes you can use following apps.

Google Hangouts

If you have a Gmail account, you already have Google Hangouts. You can use it from a laptop, or a desktop that has a video camera. Or you can use it from a phone. It’s a simple to use video calling app and at once you can talk to 10 people. You can even schedule a meeting in Google calendar and then share the video call link. All people will not to do join the call is click on the link.

Sure, this is not an app that you can use if you have a bigger team, and it might be missing a couple of cool enterprise features like presentation mode. But the ease of use, the fact that it is available to all free of cost and, more significantly, its ability to work tremendously well with even relatively poor networks make Hangouts worth it. The only condition is that it is best used for either one-on-one conversations or for a team-catch-up sort of meeting for up to 10 people.

Microsoft Skype

Skype used to be what Zoom is right now: Big. For over a decade Skype was the de facto video calling app. But gradually apps like WhatsApp, which offers video calls, and FaceTime eroded some of its appeal. But that doesn’t mean Skype is out of picture. It is still fairly great, and in these times when people are working from home Skype can be a great tool for many. Not only Skype offers features like call recording, screen sharing for presentations, file sharing, smart captions etc, it also supports up to 50 people in group video call. Zoom supports 100 but 50 isn’t bad and is going to be more than enough for most people.

WhatsApp Video Calls

This is another easy way to calls. And just like Hangouts, WhatsApp also works very well for video calls on relatively poor network. This is also an app that almost everyone has, so you don’t have to install anything new get rolling with one-one-one video conferencing with your manager. There is one limitation though: WhatsApp video calls can support only 4 people at the moment in the group video call. Also, note that the video calls made on WhatsApp are encrypted and relatively more secure.

Apple FaceTime

If you are going to have video conferencing where everyone has an Apple device like iPhone, iPad or Mac, you can use Apple’s FaceTime. This is a great app, proven, in use for a long time and from a company that has a somewhat better record with privacy than many other video calling apps. Here is how Apple describes the group calling feature: You can start a Group FaceTime from the FaceTime app or from a group conversation in the Messages app -- and you can add up to 32 people. The tile of the person speaking gets larger automatically, so you’ll never lose track of the conversation. Cool!

Microsoft Teams

Until a few weeks ago this used to be a paid app for its premium features. But now as the world works from home, and we all try to keep ourselves safe in the middle of a pandemic, Microsoft Teams even in its premium variant is free to use.

The premium version of Microsoft Teams is free for six months as part of trial period -- and it is an incredible enterprise tool. With the premium version of Teams, Microsoft offers different organisations ability to hold video conferencing for up to 250 people, along with providing them tools like screen share, recording and chat etc.

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