Over the past few decades, smartphones have revolutionized the way we communicate with one another, 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 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 smartphones touting front-facing cameras, a slew of tools for video chatting soon found their way to mobile devices. Many tech companies 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 are our favorite video-chat apps for streaming your beautiful mug.
Don’t forget to take a look at our picks for the best messaging apps for iOS and Android, some of which also let you video-call your family and friends.
The reason that Facebook Messenger is perhaps the best choice on this list is the fact that you probably already have it, and most of your friends do too. Not only that, but it’s also pretty easy to use. Simply open up the app, press on the person you want to call, and tap the camera button in the top-right corner. The app will then connect you with your friend, and you’ll be able to chat the same way you would in any other video chat app.
Facebook Messenger is available for iOS, Android, and also via any web browser logged into your Facebook account. No matter where you are, or which device you are using, you can always call your family and friends using Messenger. You can use live effects to have some fun with your family and friends, and Messenger also lets you keep track of chats with others while keeping your video chat as a small floating window within Messenger.
There are plenty of other things you can do with Facebook Messenger, so we encourage you to read our tips and tricks guide to master Facebook’s Messenger app.
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Apple’s proprietary video-chat option remains one of the most popular video-chat apps on the market. Though only available for iOS and MacOS users, FaceTime’s simple interface allows for quick video calls using either Wi-Fi or your network connection.
If you’re an iOS user, you’ll find that you can start a video from anywhere you can see a contact in iOS. You can start a video call from a message in iMessage, or you could even add a contact as a favorite in the phone app to quickly start a FaceTime call. In iOS 10 you can add those favorites as a widget and start a FaceTime call from your lock screen.
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. If you are new to iOS or Mac, we’ve prepared a guide on how to use FaceTime so that you can learn how to use all of the features.
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On December 2016, Google began to replace Hangouts with Duo as a part of the suite of pre-installed core apps for new Android devices. Google wants Duo to become the default video calling app on Android devices, which is great news for iPhone users who can also download Duo on the App Store, and contact their family and friends who use Android.
It doesn’t get any simpler than Google Duo. You open the app, and it immediately turns on your camera. Once you have your contacts populated, it will be as simple as just tapping on their contact name, what Google is touting as ‘one-tap calling’. It will also smoothly transition from Wi-Fi to your cellular data connection to make sure you can connect from anywhere.
Duo has a feature called Knock Knock that turns on the caller’s camera as a preview of who’s calling. The app will let callers know the video is visible to the other person. You can only do this with people who are already in your contacts, and if you decide that this isn’t something you like, you can disable it in settings. It creates fun opportunities and surprises — such as teasing a birthday cake before wishing someone a happy birthday.
You can learn more about Google Duo by reading our article as we go hands-on with Google’s new video calling app.
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Update: We’ve revisited this article — the results stay the same, but we’ve added more helpful links.