Cell phones have completely revolutionized the way we communicate with one another since their initial release in the ’80s, subsequently rendering cord-tethered landlines a thing of the past — for better or worse.
Nowadays, people around the world instantly communicate and bridge the distance via voice calls, texts, and emails with the simple touch of a button. Seeing an opportunity to connect people even further, a duo from Sweden unveiled the then-unknown Skype in 2003. The service — now one of the most popular chat clients in the world — conveniently allows users to see one another using a webcam while talking, as if they were facing each other in the same room. Skype essentially brought people together, granting them an easy means for intimately communicating with people thousands of miles away.
However, Skype isn’t the novelty it once was. With the introduction of a host of smartphones touting front-facing cameras, a slew of tools for video chatting soon found their way to mobile devices. Many tech companies, ahem Apple, have even gone so far as to include their own proprietary chat clients in their products. Though, like any popular service, there also exists an array of third-party offerings available on both iOS and Android.
Here’s our favorite nine of them for streaming your beautiful mug. Additionally, take a look at our top picks for the best overall iPhone and Android apps, along with our comprehensive guide to recording a Skype call.
Fans of the social media site Facebook will no doubt love the video chat client ooVoo, considering the app uploads your friends list to its contacts page once linked with your Facebook profile. However, though voice calling and instant messaging are free between ooVoo users, it does cost a minimal amount to call landlines and cell phones. Still, ooVoo gives you the ability to chat with up to 12 people at a time and allows you to keep tabs on your friends with quick status updates.
Free Skype has dominated the video chat industry for years with more than 700 million registered users. Its compatibility reaches far beyond smartphones to desktops, tablets, television sets, and other devices. The service also offers video chat, video messaging, and instant messaging within a streamlined build, while giving users the option to make VoIP calls to outside numbers for a small fee. However, its biggest draw remains the user base size.
Free Google has a knack for bringing people together. The tech giant’s aptly-titled Hangouts allows you to chat with up to 10 other people via both Wi-Fi and mobile networks, while sharing personal photos and a barrage of classic emojis in the process. Google+ users even have the app directly integrated into their profiles and the service operates across platforms, allowing you to video chat regardless of whether you’re using a smartphone or tablet.
Free If you want a simple and straightforward video chat application, look no further than Tango. The app supports member-to-member calls, as well as voice calls, text messaging, and photo sharing. The app lets you engage in group calls of up to 50 people and requires no more than your phone number, email address, and first name to sign up. Moreover, you can send music messages powered by Spotify, play games, and customize your social profile.
Free Though Viber only supports calls made to other Viber users, it does offer free messaging, video calling, and photo messaging. The service lets you spice up your messaging with unique emoticons and emojis. You can also share your location with others or participate in group calls with up to 40 individual users. With Viber, you can download sticker sets, sync the app with your contact lists, and enable push notifications for when the app is off.
Free Camfrog’s video chat service does more than just connect you with your friends and family. The app gives you the ability to connect with complete strangers in thousands of different chat rooms, each catered toward a different set of users and topics (video games, outdoors, specific regions). Unfortunately, it has a tendency to feature explicit content a la the infamous Chatroulette — especially in the chat rooms designed for this 18 and older.
Free Fring offers up a similar experience to many on this list, with standard tools for group video chats, instant messaging, video messaging, and picture messaging. However, at 1.2 cents per minute, the app also offers the cheapest rates for calling landlines. Fring lets you register your cell phone number rather than create a dedicated account, and furthermore, the service is available on a wide swath of common devices and operating systems.
Free Qik veers slightly from conventional video chat apps, as its forte lies in its livecasting ability. In addition to basic video calls, Qik allows you to record and publish videos to your live Qik feed, encouraging you to share said videos through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, email, and text. The app uses DropBox and similar cloud services, while additionally allowing you to share content by simply bumping your phone against that of your desired recipient.
Free Apple’s built-in video chat option remains one of the most popular video chat apps on the market. Though only available for iOS and Mac OS X users, FaceTime’s simple interface allows for quick video calls using either Wi-Fi or your network connection. FaceTime certainly doesn’t offer the most bells and whistles of any client on our list, but it’s already integrated within iOS and doesn’t require any additional software or advanced setup.