Videoconferencing has historically been a low-level, background tech, designed for specialized remote global workplaces, employees who work at home, or chats between far-flung friends and family. Now we can add pandemic to the list of reasons why folks may be considering a new videoconferencing app, or reconsidering an existing one.
More and more workplaces and schools around the world are requiring people to self-quarantine, socially distance themselves, and limit crowd-based engagements like spectator sports, parades, and parties in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed thousands of people worldwide in the space of a few months. As businesses send employees to work in home offices whenever possible, videoconferencing apps have become a critical everyday tool.
Videoconferencing protects workplaces
Some companies are stepping up to the plate with a few extra services to help customers cope with being cooped up in their homes. For example, Google announced it is rolling out free access to its advanced Hangouts Meet videoconferencing through July 1 to G Suite and G Suite for Education customers worldwide. Microsoft is now offering a free six-month trial of an advanced version of Microsoft Teams. Both Cisco and Zoom have removed time limits from their free video options.
The good news is that for distant employees, associates, and clients, you can rely on some excellent videoconferencing apps to keep your company running smoothly, regardless of size, complete with virtual face-to-face communications. While the desktop traditionally hosts many sophisticated videoconferencing applications, the need to hold meetings while out in the field as well as at home are equally critical.
Videoconferencing has always been recognized as boosting productivity among employees and teams and providing an alternative way of interacting with colleagues, partners, and clients. Companies benefit from lower travel costs and even abbreviated project times as a result of better communications — including better interpretation of non-verbal cues and a stronger sense of bonding among business contacts. Participants develop a sense of familiarity with folks they may never meet in person. The apps below facilitate mobile face-to-face meetings, accompanied by chat, screen sharing, and other business-oriented features.
If you need a more family-style chat app, or have an extremely small company, check out our selection of mobile video chat apps.
Zoom Cloud Meetings
The free Zoom Cloud Meetings is an easy way for work teams and clients to stay connected regardless of physical location. The app delivers high-quality video, audio, screen sharing, and cross-platform instant messaging. Connect with anyone on your mobile device, Windows, Mac, Zoom Rooms, H.323/SIP room systems, or telephones. All you have to do is start a meeting and invite anyone in your contact list to join in. Virtual backgrounds are available on some later handset models and operating systems. The app works over Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, and 3G networks, letting you share and co-annotate screens and applications or use Zoom’s chat and phone services. The newest versions let you limit screen sharing only to the meeting host, log meeting reactions. and view your co-participants’ audio status.
Link up with up to 25 colleagues with Skype on your mobile phone for an HD video call. You can also use Skype to send SMS messages, place voice calls to both mobile and landline phones, send GIFs, chat, share photos and videos, or share your screen for business presentations. The app lets you read and reply to phone-based SMS messages on your desktop computer. There’s plenty of variety with Skype, though the app is consistently a work in progress and seeks feedback on the user experience. While Skype-to-Skype calls are free, you may incur data charges, so Skype recommends an unlimited data plan or Wi-Fi connection. Newer versions add a Director’s Cut, which lets you upload up to 10 minutes per video from mobile, up from the previous 1 minute. New versions also facilitate scheduling group calls, translations for conversations, and adding checkmarks and crossmarks to emoticons.
Free Conference Call
Need to set a meeting? Free Conference Call, an easy-to-use collaboration tool, allows the flexibility of holding online meetings with HD audio, videoconferencing, and screen sharing. Host or join a meeting, share content, or chat with participants anywhere and at any time. The app provides free audio conferencing for up to 1,000 participants and online meetings with screen sharing. Just tap the invite link from your email or tap the FreeConferenceCall.com icon and enter the meeting credentials to get into the meeting. Once you have joined, you can dial in to the conference call using your internet connection, and also interact with documents by zooming in or out of shared content.
Google’s Hangouts for casual get-togethers may have faded away, but its Hangouts Meet for businesses is alive and well. It offers a simple way to conduct videoconferencing and keep teams tight regardless of where members are located. The app features high-definition video meetings with up to 100 participants (for G Suite Enterprise customers), easy access via a one-click shared link, and the ability to dial in to any meeting for audio phone call-ins. It’s designed to work with Google Calendar, which makes it easy to schedule, view meeting details, and join right away. You must give permission for Google to access your camera, microphone, and photo library in order to use the app. Newer versions let you directly present your mobile screen into your meeting without having to join the call.
You may already be familiar with GoToMeeting, a popular desktop app. But its mobile counterpart is no slouch, offering accessible and reliable meetings anywhere on the planet. It’s easy to jump into a meeting without having to sign up. You can also host a meeting on any smartphone or tablet for free without a credit card. You get clear VoIP audio, face-to-face videoconferencing, the ability to share your device screen with meeting participants, the option to hand off presentation control to various attendees, and the ability to view presentations. You can also see all of your upcoming meetings and join with a tap, as well as get alerts when a meeting is about to start or chat with other attendees. If you already use GoToMeeting at the office, you can sync your calendar to your mobile device to join meetings and use the commuter mode to save up to 90% of data when joining a mobile meeting. Add GoToMeeting as a widget to your iPhone or iPad to see and join upcoming meetings with a single tap. To enter the widget area, simply swipe right over the Home screen, Lock screen, or while you’re looking at your notifications. Recent versions institute sign-in improvements and efficiencies, easier screen sharing, especially for iOS devices, and quicker attendee list viewing.
BlueJeans offers business videoconferencing via Wi-Fi or 4G LTE, making it an easy and affordable route for businesses that facilitates hosting or joining videoconferences from anywhere you are. The app works alongside the BlueJeans service to provide multiparty video calls on the go with a variety of conferencing systems, including Polycom, Cisco, LifeSize, and Microsoft Lync. You can host meetings via the BlueJeans app, with an existing BlueJeans account, but an account is not needed to attend a meeting. You can also host or join a video meeting with up to 25 participants — or up to 100 with the premium service. Newer versions have introduced three new meeting modes: Standard for a full meeting experience, including audio, video and content; Low data with audio and content only; and Commute for on-the-go audio-only meetings.
Cisco Webex Meetings
Cisco Webex Meetings helps make remote meetups less of a drag by helping you achieve engaging, productive video and audio conferencing from your own location, complete with sharing and chat. You can join and conduct presentations from any meeting, event, or training directly from your iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch while operating with hands-free voice commands using Siri. You can join a meeting from a single tap on your calendar as well as schedule meetings directly from your app. You can also customize your video layouts, share your content (including 3D files), or screen to everyone, and, for iOS, easily sign in using Face ID or Touch ID.
If your workplace is using Office 365, you are likely familiar with Microsoft Teams, where all your conversations, files, meetings, and apps share a workspace that you can easily access from your mobile device. As a teamwork hub, Teams lets you manage projects on the go complete with file editing and sharing. You can connect face-to-face with HD audio and video and join meetings from wherever you are. You can also chat privately or in groups, and communicate in designated channels, save conversations, customize notifications, search chats and conversations, and get enterprise-level security while you’re at it. The app requires a paid commercial subscription to Office 365 or a free or trial subscription of Microsoft Teams.