The best chat and video apps to keep you connected during lockdown

May 25, 2020 • Posted by Adam @ MotorhomeWiFi in Blog, News, Reviews  

There are so many video chat applications at our fingertips. Sophie at Motorhome WiFi compares the new kids on the block with some old-school favourites. 

Many of us continue to find ourselves in some form of lockdown and life as we know it has certainly changed. We may have become a crucial lifeline for those who are unexpectedly stuck indoors, especially older and vulnerable friends and family. And all of a sudden we’re left wondering when will we be able to use our motorhomes again, right?

In the meantime, social distancing has become the norm but most of us yearn for social interaction and a good old chin wag.

We’ve all heard of Skype, Whatsapp and Facetime, but there are several new players in the connectivity market, which are making it easier for us to stay in touch with close family and friends.

I’m sure it’s not just us who miss popping down to the local for a drink with pals, so here is a rundown of your options whilst we batten down the hatches. 

A picture paints a thousand words

A myriad of different applications allow you to share a video call. All that’s required is that the person on the other end has the same application on their device. That could be a laptop computer with a webcam, a smart phone or a tablet. The bigger the screen, the more ‘people’ you can see at the same time, depending on the application of choice.

Sometimes however, the picture clarity is not ideal. The quality of your video is affected by three things.The quality of your camera

  1. For most devices the forward facing video camera is vastly inferior to the rear camera. Depending on the age and quality of your device you may find that your own video may not be as good as the other participants. Try turning on a light, as often front facing cameras have poor low light level sensitivity.The speed of your broadband
  2. On a video call you are both sending and receiving video. Having a good download speed, but also crucially upload speed, is important to prevent you from freezing in motion.
  3. The strength of your WiFi signal. You may find sitting in the same room as your router offers some improvement and prevents drop outs. This can also improve your broadband speed.

Top tips

  • Consider having a phone or tablet stand to get the most flattering angle
  • Check if other participants are calling in portrait or landscape and adjust your device to suit
  • Be careful not to cover your microphone, as your voice will become muffled and you will turn into Darth Vader without realising it!

 

The runners and riders

Facetime

Pros: Easy to use, maximum of 32 people per chat, ad-free and cost-free

Cons: You require an Apple device

If you have an iPhone, iPad or any other “i” device for that matter, you will no doubt have used FaceTime. Its easy to use functionality really does make it our “go to” way of communicating with family members, as well as being able to add multiple people to your group audio or video chat. It has a lot of fun features if you choose to use them, whilst being pretty slick and straight forward. It’s also completely free.

 

 Skype

Pros: Price is free and widely known

Cons: Old Tech

Everyone has heard of Skype, it’s been around now for knocking on 20 years. It is owned by Microsoft but unfortunately, it hasn’t been updated in a fair while. Some features are a bit old hat and seem clunky compared to the fresh new chat apps which are available in 2020. 

You do need to add people as a contact by either their Skype username, full name or email address and they also have to accept your invitation before you can call them.

 

Whatsapp 

Pros: You don’t need to subscribe to any particular platform, you just need a smartphone

Cons: You require a person’s mobile number to contact them

Whatsapp has similar features to Facetime where you can audio or video call individuals and create groups. In the last couple of weeks, they have increased the number of users in a group to 8 people in one call. People of all ages can use Whatsapp without any external help, it is that easy to use.

 

 

Facebook Messenger

Pros: Easy to use and add people to chat

Cons: Not everybody is on Facebook

Facebook Messenger also offers these same elements and is soon to release a new service called Messenger Rooms where you can add a whole load of people to your “room”, 50 people to be exact! This functionality should be available in the coming weeks. Another positive is that you can add people to your group who do not have a Facebook account, bonus.  

 

So, enough with the old and in with the new. 

 

Zoom

Pros: Screen Sharing, Multiple Users, Record Meetings

Cons: There is a time limit on the free trial

Zoom has been the “in thing” over the past couple of weeks with many businesses using it to run conference calls, briefings and to check in on their staff. This is all for a very good reason as you have the ability to share your screen with other users, as well as send and receive files. You can use Zoom on your smartphone, tablet or laptop but it’s worth mentioning that it is more computer friendly than it is phone friendly.

The downside to this is the free version is limited to 40 minutes if more than 2 people are in one group.

 

Houseparty

Pros: Its fun – have a party without leaving the house

Cons: Max 8 people per group

Houseparty has surged in popularity since March and has had over 50 million signups as it takes on a fun approach to self-isolating. You can simply chat with friends or choose to take part in a selection of games. It’s pretty straight forward to setup once you have downloaded the app onto your tablet or phone. There is also an extension for Google Chrome and MacOS.

We’ve also heard from a number of Motorhome WiFi customers who wish to keep in touch with elderly relatives or neighbours who are self-isolating but aren’t yet part of the social networking world.

 

There are a number of alternatives such Amazon’s 2nd generation Echo Show with its crystal clear 10″ HD screen. You can make video calls to other echo devices as well as stream TV, listen to music, set timers and create shopping lists. Google’s Home and Nest Hub all have similar features.

It’s safe to say and I am sure you will agree, we are all looking forward to seeing our friends and family in real life very shortly. In the meantime, here at Motorhome WiFi HQ, we continue to use Zoom for business meetings but stick to good old Facetime for quick catchups. 

Until next time, stay safe and keep connected. 

 
 
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