Thanks to smartphones and computers, keeping in touch has never been easier. These days, your average person has access to a slew of messaging options, from the humble text message or voice call to online messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and others. Simple text and voice can only take you so far, though, and it’s nice to be able to see your loved ones while you’re talking to them. Yes, there’s no real replacement for face-to-face time, but video calling can really take the edge off not seeing your friends and family.
Your phone or tablet is the best video calling device, but which of the many, many apps should you download? After all, if everyone you know is going to be downloading them, you might as well pick a good one. Thankfully, you don’t need to crawl through your app store to find the best video calling apps, because we’ve done all the hard work for you. Here are some of the best video chat apps for Android and iOS.
Looking for something that can handle even more participants? Check out our list of the best video conferencing apps and the best video conferencing software for your computer. If you’re looking for something less personal, check out our list of the best text messaging apps.
Facebook Messenger is probably the best choice for most people. Why? It’s very likely that you and most of your friends use it on a regular basis.
Messenger’s video chat feature is easy to use. Simply open up the app, select the person you want to call and tap the camera button in the top-right corner. The app will connect you with your friend, and you will be able to chat the same way you would in any other video chat app. If you want to chat with a group, simply make a new group chat (or select an existing group) and tap the call button.
One of Facebook Messenger’s big advantages is its wide availability. It’s available for iOS, Android, and any web browser logged into your Facebook account. 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. If you’re rocking a lower powered phone that runs Messenger Lite, don’t worry — you can video call on Messenger Lite, too.
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.
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 will 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 can even add a contact as a favorite in the phone app to quickly start a FaceTime call. iOS 12 introduced a bunch of great new features, including group FaceTime calls and the option to layer Animoji and Memoji over your face during calls.
FaceTime’s real advantage is that it’s already integrated within iOS and doesn’t require any additional software or advanced setup. If you’re new to iOS or Mac, we prepared a guide on how to use FaceTime so that you can learn how to use all of the features.
It doesn’t get any simpler than Google Duo. You open the app, and it immediately turns on your camera. Once your contacts list has been populated, calling is as simple as tapping on a person’s name.
Duo’s best feature is Knock Knock. It turns on the caller’s camera before the call is picked up, so you can always see who’s calling. If you’re the person calling, it gives you the chance to pull some faces before your recipient picks up, and it creates fun opportunities and surprises — such as teasing a birthday cake before wishing someone a happy birthday. It’ll only trigger with people already in your contact list, but if you decide that this isn’t something you like, you can disable Knock Knock in Duo’s settings.
If you can’t get through, Google Duo also now includes the ability to leave a video message for them to pick up later. Duo also boasts the highest video quality of any video chat app, and it’ll also smoothly transition from Wi-Fi to your cellular data connection to make sure you can connect from anywhere.
WhatsApp is one of the most popular chat services on the planet — which may come as a surprise to many Americans, many of whom continue to spurn the service. With a billion daily users, using WhatsApps video calling services may be the most convenient option for you.
Getting started is easy — just navigate to your chosen chat and tap the video call button. WhatsApp will also move between your data connection and Wi-Fi, ensuring a strong connection regardless of where you are — and you can even check your other messages while you’re in the call.
It used to be that WhatsApp was a little lacking in features compared to other services, but it closed some of that gap with group video calling — though there is still no option for the fun stickers and other features you’ll find on other apps. WhatsApp also lacks the ability to video call from a desktop, which other apps are able to do. Still, it’s a good video calling platform, and a great way to get in contact with those existing chat groups on WhatsApp.
Finding time to get together to chat can be tough, especially if you’re dealing with a large group. Thankfully, Marco Polo means you don’t have to. Marco Polo is a video chat app with a twist — rather than wait for everyone, Marco Polo allows you to send a video message that can then be watched at everyone’s leisure. If you’re not able to reply in kind, you can type out text replies or snap quick photos instead.
It’s very highly recommended by its many reviews, but there is a glaring downside — the cost. A subscription to Marco Polo costs $10 a month (or $30 a year), and while that money may support a great app, it could be tough to persuade friends and family to subscribe when so many great free options are available.