The best free apps for video calling

Things may start to open up, but the current COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit face-to-face relationships, and most of us still rely on video calling to keep in touch with our coworkers, family and friends. And for most of us, especially those struggling financially, free is the best. Zoom continues to rank #1 on the list of video conferencing apps, but there are many applications that allow you to meet others online for free.

We’ve listed some of the best known video conferencing apps, along with some popular text chat apps that include video calling capabilities. Most of these already have a free version, but some provide access to additional features for those who are currently working from home or want to check out their friends and relatives online.

There are many apps that we don’t include for video chat, such as Facebook, WhatsApp and FaceTime. Excluded because all participants are members of certain social networks (Facebook, WhatsApp) or have to use certain types of devices (FaceTime, Apple only). We have also tried to focus on applications that allow you to participate without downloading the app (if you are not the host) and allow at least 10 people to participate.

A good idea is to see for yourself how well it suits your style and your friends’ styles. This list is a great place to start.

Most Popular Video Conferencing App

Zoom is one of the most popular video conferencing apps.

Zoom has become one of the best known video conferencing apps. Indeed, its name is becoming synonymous with video conferencing. Prior to the pandemic, the company pushed Zoom primarily for corporate use, but also offers a free basic version for individuals. Initially, Zoom didn’t expect any sudden popularity among non-business users, so there were some mistakes with privacy and security. The company quickly introduced a number of changes and updates to address these issues.

The free version of Zoom can meet up to 100 users, but meetings of 2 or more have a 40 minute limit, which can be very limited. As of this writing, Zoom hasn’t currently offered any special deals to people working from home, but there are pages out there that offer help and advice to new users.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100 people
  • One-on-one meeting: no time limit
  • Group meeting: 40 minutes limit
  • Screen sharing: yes
  • Meeting Record: Yes

Skype meeting now

Long time for online calls

Skype's Meet Now feature supports up to 50 people with a 4 hour limit.

Skype’s Meet Now feature supports up to 50 people with a 4 hour limit.

Skype has been a platform for one-on-one conversations since its beta release in 2003. The Meet Now feature, accessible by selecting the “Meet Now” button on the left side of the app, enables video conferencing. ; You can meet up to 50 people by limiting the meeting time to 4 hours.

There is also a separate page where you can create free video conferences without actually signing up for the service. However, the app gives you more features, so if it’s okay to sign up for a free account, you’re better off doing so.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 50 people
  • One-on-one meeting: no time limit
  • Group meeting: 4 hours per call, 10 hours per day, 100 hours per month
  • Screen sharing: yes
  • Meeting Record: Yes

Corporate app with solid partial paid version

Webex, a video conferencing app that has been around since the 90s, has a useful free version.

Webex, a video conferencing app that has been around since the 90s, has a useful free version.

Webex is a video conferencing app that has been around since the 90s. It was acquired by Cisco in 2007. It has been known primarily as a business application and continues to focus on serving companies, but there is a fairly generous free version worth checking out. During the current trend, the features of the premium version have expanded from 50 to 100, and can be met for up to 50 minutes.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100 people
  • One-on-one meeting: 50 minutes limit
  • Group meeting: 50 minutes limit
  • Screen sharing: yes
  • Meeting Record: Yes

It will now appear on your Gmail page.

Meet provides a very simple and efficient way to video chat with colleagues, friends and family. It is assumed that everyone has a Google Account that is required by both hosts and participants. In fact, Google is not only encouraging people to use the Meet video conferencing app instead of Zoom, but it’s also making it a replacement for the upcoming Google Hangouts app. (We previously included Google Hangouts in this roundup, but now Hangouts users are actively urged within the app to use Google Meet for video chat.) Find Hangouts links in the Gmail app and all appointments using Google. can. calendar.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100 people
  • One-on-one meeting: limited to 24 hours
  • Group meeting: from 24 hours limit to June 28, after that, 1 hour limit
  • Screen sharing: yes
  • Meeting Record: No

Not just business

Microsoft Teams is built as a competitor to Slack and is a great idea, especially if it’s part of the Office ecosystem. While the application is primarily for business use, Microsoft has released a free private version of Teams that allows anyone to chat, chat, or video conferencing away from a three-piece suit. Just create a Microsoft account. To use it. The current epidemic is causing Microsoft to increase its maximum number of participants from 100 to 300 and increase the time limit from 60 minutes to 24 hours, giving it an edge over most other free video conferencing apps.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100 in general, expanded to 300 during the pandemic
  • One-on-one meeting: usually limited to 60 minutes; Extended to 24 hours during the pandemic
  • Group meeting: usually limited to 60 minutes; Extended to 24 hours during the pandemic
  • Screen sharing: yes
  • Meeting Record: No

The best mobile app for one-on-one

Don’t you expect Google to offer just one simple video conferencing app? In addition to Google Meet, Google also has a mobile app Duo built as a consumer app (Meet was originally designed as a business app). Duo was first touted as an app that could be used for one-on-one conversations and was only available on phones, but now you can create groups of up to 32 participants and includes a web app. All participants must have a Google account.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 32 people
  • One-on-one meeting: no time limit
  • Group meeting: no time limit
  • Screen sharing: mobile only
  • Meeting Record: No

Corporate meeting app with free basic version

If it weren’t for a company, you wouldn’t have heard of StarLeaf. It is a platform for businesses rather than individuals. The cheapest paid plans start with 5 licenses suitable for small businesses. Today, however, we offer basic video and messaging products for free for those who want to stay in touch during an epidemic.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 20 people
  • One-on-one meeting: no time limit
  • Group meeting: 45 minutes time limit
  • Screen sharing: yes
  • Meeting Record: No

Open source with a variety of features

Jitsi Meet, another “probably never heard of” video conferencing app, is an open source platform that makes it easy to meet online by simply going to the site and clicking “Start Meeting”. If you’re a developer, you can build your own conferencing app through Jitsi Videobridge, but most people will be happy with a fast web version that offers many features you’ll find in well-known apps like fake backgrounds, chats, and sessions. Recording (with Dropbox) and the ability to “deport” disorganized participants.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100 people
  • One-on-one meeting: no time limit
  • Group meeting: no time limit
  • Screen sharing: yes
  • Meeting Record: Yes

Single conference room with up to 50 participants

In the free version, you can use a single conference room with up to 50 participants, and you can lock the conference room (participants must “knock” to enter). Each room has a unique URL to choose from. It’s good to assume that someone else hasn’t already used that name. (For example, I initially tried whereby.com/testroom and found it already used), but it also has a chat feature, allows you to share the screen, mutes or exits users, and provides a breakout group.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 50 people
  • One-on-one meeting: no time limit
  • Group meeting: 45 minutes limit
  • Screen sharing: yes
  • Meeting Record: No

Lots of free features

Glip Pro offers a variety of features for free video conferencing apps. You must have a work email address or a Google account and you want to access the contacts on that account. But if you’re happy with that, you’ll get 24 hours of meeting time (as long as you sign up by July), screen sharing, recording, chat and virtual backgrounds, and more. It also offers closed captions (like many AI transcription software, some captions leave what you want).

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 100 people
  • One-on-one meeting: limited to 24 hours (subscription until July 2021)
  • Group meeting: limited to 24 hours (joined until July 2021)
  • Screen sharing: yes
  • Meeting Record: Yes

Simple web-based system

Spike can be used without downloading anything.

Spike can be used without downloading anything.

As an expanding email service, Spike offers video conferencing to its subscribers, but has made the native video conferencing web app available to anyone who wants to. Quick and easy to use. Go to video.spike.chat, enter your name and click “Join Video Chat Meeting”. Spike can also generate a unique URL for chat and share your screen.

Free version features

  • Maximum participants: 200 people
  • One-on-one meeting: no time limit
  • Group meeting: no time limit
  • Screen sharing: yes
  • Meeting Record: No

More alternatives

There are a number of Zoom alternatives, including RemoteHQ, Talky, and 8×8 (which acquired Jitsi in 2018). Some of these do not have a free version or have a limited number of participants who can use the free version. For example, BlueJeans starts at $9.99 per month for unlimited meetings with up to 100 participants, while the free version of Zoho Meeting only allows up to 3 participants and Intermedia AnyMeeting allows 4 participants.

Other apps offer some video conferencing as an add-on. Slack is primarily set up for text chat, but you can also make audio and video calls. If you are using the free version of Slack, you can make video calls to individuals. However, if you are hosting a meeting between multiple people rather than a one-on-one conversation and you want it free, you have to find an alternative. The messaging app Signal offers group video calls with up to 8 participants.

There are also apps like Houseparty that allow up to 8 people to chat using a virtual room. In fact, anyone can join a friend’s online session without an invitation (the room can be “locked” to prevent disturbers). However, to use, all participants must register, and registration includes their name, email address, date of birth and phone number. So we didn’t include it in our recommendations.

UPDATE May 4, 2021 at 2:40pm ET: This article was originally published on June 11, 2020. Everything has been updated since then. Also, two apps (Hangouts and Spike) have been removed and Glip Pro has been added.

UPDATE May 5, 2021 at 9:15am ET: Updated to reflect the fact that Whereby’s Breakout Groups feature is not in beta and adds Signal to the list of alternatives.

Update May 6, 2021 at 4pm EST: Updated to add Spikes back to the main list.

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