Video calling apps and platforms ranked


Video calling apps and platforms ranked.
Video calling apps and platforms ranked
Image credit: Ian Ling

Staying at home might have been fun for the first few days, but with the COVID-19 situation expected to persist for the months to come, it is only a matter of time before cabin fever sets in. 

Cooped up at home, being far from your friends can dampen spirits easily. But thanks to technology, you and your kaki are covered. Here are the top 14 video calling apps and platforms available in Singapore to stay in touch while you stay at home.

For more things to do indoors, check out our other articles:


14. Marco Polo (Android/iOS) – leave video messages


 


Image credit: Marco Polo

Though you might not be able to travel the world like Marco Polo with the ongoing COVID-19 travel restrictions, this app will allow you to keep in touch with your friends around the world, especially if they’re in different time zones.

Marco Polo works somewhat like Snapchat, except it’s better suited for a wider audience like your wholesome grand-aunt Margaret. You simply snap a Polo, and send it as a video message to one or more recipients. If they’re overseas or busy working from home, they can view and respond to it whenever it’s convenient for them. 

But unlike Snapchat’s one-day limit, your video messages will also be stored for you to revisit indefinitely if you are subscribed to their premium service.

Added functions: Doodles, filters.
Ease of use: Easy. The controls are minimal and easy to understand.
Price: Free, Premium at $9.99 per month or $29.99 per year.
No of people per room: 200 recipients

Score: 2/5. Great for connecting people with different schedules, but unfortunately doesn’t provide real-time video calling.

Download Marco Polo here: Android|iOS


13. Discord (Windows/Android/iOS) – video calls for gamers


Discord is a video calling app available in Singapore
Image credit: Discord

True gamers swear by Discord, an app that was originally designed to provide pro-level voice communication for teammates. 

Now, Discord allows you to catch up with your friends via 1-to-1 video call on mobile or in groups of up to 10 on your PC. It even has nifty features like the walkie talkie-like push-to-talk function, where the mic is muted except when you hold down keys to prevent background noise from disrupting the call.

Added functions: Push-to-talk audio (like a walkie talkie!).
Ease of use: Medium. All participants have to install the software and set up an account. The video chat function isn’t its main goal.
Price: Free
No of people per room: 10

Score: 2.5/5. Users are limited to 1-on-1 video chats if they are on mobile, and the interface needs some getting used to.

Download Discord here.


12. Microsoft Teams (Windows/Mac/Android/iOS) – collaborate on Word, Excel or Powerpoint docs


Microsoft Teams is the perfect video calling website for those who work heavily with Microsoft Office apps.
Image credit: Microsoft Office

Everyone is probably familiar with Microsoft, but you might not have heard of Microsoft Teams. That’s because it caters more to businesses and professionals, with integration with Microsoft Office apps and a whopping 250-participant capacity! 

Although you’re unlikely to fork out about $7 a month to hang out with your friends on Teams, you might consider this platform if you are a student. That’s because Microsoft Teams is free for all users with a .edu email, which makes it ideal for working together on your school projects.

Added functions: compatibility with Microsoft Office apps
Ease of use: Hard. Installation and set-up of software required.
Price: 6-month free trial, US$5 (S$7.14) per user per month. Free for students and teachers.
No of people per room: 250

Score: 2.5/5. Subscriptions and the additional software required make Microsoft Teams rather difficult to use outside a business setting, although the 250-participant capacity is one of the largest on this list!

Download Microsoft Teams here.


11. Bunch (iOS/Android) – enjoy mobile game sessions with friends


Bunch is a gaming-centric video calling app in Singapore that allows you to kick back with friends online.
Image credit: Bunch

No matter how much you love staying at home, you’ll lose your mind at some point. Bunch lets you spice up your video calls with in-app games like Flappy Bird, charades and the Super Mario-like Mars Dash.

With these simple but entertaining games, your conversations will never be dull. Bunch also integrates directly into other popular games like PUBG and Brawl Stars, making it an added bonus if you and your friends are fans of these titles.

Added functions: Game streaming, original games like trivia and charades.
Ease of use: Medium. In addition to the app itself, each participant has to install the games separately.
Price: Free
No of people per room:

Score: 3/5. The games on Bunch are simple and a whole load of fun, but aren’t ideal social titles to pair with video calling apps. 

Download Bunch here: Android|iOS


10. WhatsApp (iOS/Android) – for on-the-fly conferencing with small groups


WhatsApp is one of the most accessible video calling apps.
Image credit: WhatsApp

You might be shocked to learn that WhatsApp is actually good for something apart from sharing Good Morning messages and spreading fake news. With this app that’s likely already on your phone, you can conveniently video call groups of up to four people right from your smartphone.  

Given how ubiquitous it is, especially in Singapore, you can even set up a video call with your dad – simply ask him to launch his Watapps

Added functions: End-to-end encryption to secure your video calls
Ease of use: Easy. Most Singaporeans already have the WhatsApp mobile app.
Price: Free
No of people per room: 4

Score: 3/5. WhatsApp is everywhere, but video chat features are basic and call quality is average.

Download WhatsApp Messenger here: Android|iOS


9. FaceTime (macOS/iOS) – easy-to-use Apple-exclusive option


FaceTime is the perfect video calling app for Apple device users.
Image credit: Apple

With its extremely user-friendly interface, it’s no wonder that FaceTime is a crowd favourite amongst Apple users. However, no luck for our Android brethren – this option is limited to Apple users only.

If you’ve been stuck in your cave home for the past few weeks, FaceTime also lets you “wear” a cute cartoon version of yourself to hide your dishevelled face.

Added functions: Animoji or Memoji to hide your disheveled face, effects and filters.
Ease of use: Easy. Pre-installed iOS and macOS app that is simple and responsive.
Price: Free
No of people per room: 32

Score: 3/5. A very powerful mobile video calling app with features, support for large groups, but is limited to Apple users.

Download FaceTime here: iOS


8. Instagram (iOS/Android) – for millennials to scroll the feed and spill the tea concurrently


Instagram allows you to perform video calling while scrolling your feed.
Image credit: Instagram

This might be another #TodayILearnt, but hidden beneath the glitzy Instagram Stories and the influencers on your Explore page is a group video call function. You can easily access it in Direct Messages, by clicking the video icon at the top right-hand corner.

You may minimise the video chat to a small window whilst browsing within the app, allowing you to spill the tea with up to 5 friends while conducting your very own Instagram CSI.

Added functions: Picture-in-picture video calls to let you chat while checking your feed
Ease of use: Easy. Most of us already have this app installed, and you can access it through the Direct Message tab.
Price: Free
No of people per room: 6

Score: 3/5. Though easily accessible, Instagram only provides basic video call functions.

Download Instagram here: Android|iOS


7. Facebook Messenger (iOS/Android) – most accessible option


Facebook Messenger allows a large group of participants to join in on your video call.
Image credit: Facebook

Perhaps your birthday party plans had to be scrapped because large groups can no longer gather due to COVID-19. Supporting up to 50 participants, Facebook Messenger might just help you get around that.

The popularity of Facebook Messenger makes it easy to get in touch, and the face filters make for an added layer of fun – or hide the fact that you’ve got no makeup on. 

Added functions: Some face filters to provide some entertainment
Ease of use: No additional software needed, but is mobile-only.
Price: Free
No of people per room: 50 (only 6 can be seen at a time)

Score: 3.5/5. It can accommodate very large groups, and most people already have Facebook. It is an easy choice for friends and family, but functions are limited.

Download Facebook Messenger here: Android|iOS


6. Google Duo (Android/iOS/web) – lightweight option for mobile users with poor internet connection


Google Duo is the best video calling app option for those experiencing poor connectivity at home.
Image credit: Google Duo

A poor internet connection might be a first world problem, but nothing is more frustrating than your connection cutting out in the middle of an important call. 

Google Duo focuses on delivering a simple, solid video chat experience. This means that when your WiFi goes funky, the app automatically switches to your data connection to smooth things out. What’s more, due to COVID-19, the team behind Duo has increased the maximum participants from 8 to 12.


Google Duo has also increased its group calling limit from 8 to 12 participants
Image credit:
sanazahari

Added functions: “Knock-knock” feature to allow the person you’re calling to see you before picking up
Ease of use: Easy. Pre-installed on many Android phones.
Price: Free
No of people per room: 12

Score: 3.5/5. With many people experiencing slower internet speeds during lockdowns across the world, Google Duo’s feature of switching between WiFi and data ensures a smooth video chat experience.

Download Google Duo here: Android|iOS|web


5. Whereby (web) – no-frills, no-signup video conferencing for small groups


Whereby is a nerd's dream of a video calling service, with HTML 5 and webRTC.
Image credit: Whereby

One of the most annoying experiences while setting up other video calling apps is fumbling around with logins and installations. Whereby avoids this by allowing your friends or colleagues to join with a simple click –  no registration required. 

Despite being web-based, Whereby’s HTML5 and WebRTC (real-time communication) tech reduces lag in your calls, minimising that irritating situation when participants speak over each other. 

Added functions: Screen sharing, room lock code.
Ease of use: High. Don’t need any additional apps or software.
Price: Free
No of people per room: 4

Score: 4/5. Despite high-quality video and easy access, you might be constrained by the small group size and limited functionality. 

Access Whereby here.


4. Houseparty (iOS/Android/macOS/Chrome) – spontaneous fun with friends with party games


Image credit: Houseparty

Time to up your video chatting game with Houseparty. Unlike other video calling apps, Houseparty has got a bunch of social games that are well suited for group play, and did we mention a more juicy adult twist? 

Challenge your friends in a game of Heads Up, or get spicy playing a session of Chips n Guac – something like Cards Against Humanity. If intellectual games are your kind of thing, Houseparty also has a good trivia deck that will keep all your brain cells active throughout this stay-home period. This way you’ll never FOMO despite being cooped up at home. 


Image credit: Houseparty

Added functions: Screen sharing, floating window so you can multitask, group games.
Ease of use: Medium. All participants have to install the app, but using it is intuitive and like most other chat apps.
Price: Free
No of people per room: 8

Score: 4/5. One of the best ways to keep up your social life and catch up with friends during COVID-19. However, there’s a limited number of games and a limit of 8 participants can be a hindrance.

Download Houseparty here: Android|iOS


3. Skype (iOS/Android/macOS/Windows) – fully-featured yet easy-to-use


Skype is a cross-platform video calling app available in Singapore.
Image credit: Skype

The granddaddy of all video chat platforms, Skype is the go-to app if you need a simple yet reliable way to connect with friends, family and colleagues no matter what device they’re on.

It works on most smartphones, tablets and computers, and has all the bells and whistles: screen sharing, file transfer, and even lets you blur your background to hide your embarrassing mountain of dirty laundry.

Added functions: Instant messaging, Blur background, Skype Translator.
Ease of use: Easy. Many devices even come preinstalled with Skype due to its popularity, and its advanced features are easy to figure out.
Price: Free
No of people per room: up to 50

Score: 4/5. One of the oldest video chat apps that provides advanced features like file transfer, screen sharing, and background blurring.

Download Skype here.


2. Google Hangouts (iOS/Android/web) – best for business users with Google or G Suite accounts


Google Hangouts is the video calling app of choice for professionals and businesses.
You can even turn on captions if you have trouble hearing the conversation
Image credit: G Suite

While Google Duo leans toward casual users, Google Hangouts is more of the business end when it comes to video conferencing.

It’s free for all Gmail account users, and has nifty tie-ins with other Google services. For example, you can schedule a call through Google Calendar or chat over a Google Docs/Google Slides project. 

Added functions: Real-time closed captions, meeting recordings.
Ease of use: Easy. Participants can join with a web link.
Price: Free
No of people per room: 10

Score: 4.5/5. Allows users to join video calls without signing up or signing in – just like Whereby. Present slides, show what’s on your computer and easily schedule meetings with its integration with Google Calendar.

Download Google Hangouts here: Android|iOS|web


1. Zoom (iOS/Android/web) – for large meetings, conferences and lectures


Zoom's grid layout makes video conferencing and video calls so much more engaging.
Zoom is one of the few video calling services that allows you to view all the participants in a grid
Image credit: Zoom

Zoom has become quite the sensation as companies and schools go online due to COVID-19. 

If you’re a teacher or student in these trying times, Zoom is truly a life-saver. Functions like the tiled-grid view and hand-raising make it feel as if you’re in a real-life classroom. The host could even separate students into break-out rooms for small-group discussions. These tiny touches truly make Zoom a conducive learning alternative. 

For free accounts, Zoom provides unlimited 1-on-1 calls, but the 40-minute limit on group meetings has been lifted for teachers and students.

Added functions: Breakout groups for discussion, raise hands, Change your background, beautify, screen sharing and record meetings.
Ease of use: Easy. Software required, but advanced features like raising hands and changing of background can be easily accessed.
Price: Free, Enterprise version at $20 per month per host.
No of people per room: 100

Score: 4.5/5. With how effective Zoom is, we won’t be surprised if online classroom sessions become the new normal – even after the crisis boils over. 

Download Zoom here: Android|iOS|Chrome|web


Bonus: turn into a talking potato on Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams


Here’s a good way to spread some cheer whilst your friends or colleagues are rooted at home during the COVID-19 outbreak: by turning yourself into a talking tuber during your next team meeting.

You can unearth this spudtastic effect by downloading Snap Camera on your Mac or PC and selecting it as your camera input while setting up the call. You can then go ahead and pick your filter of choice – they’ve got plenty, including a talking toilet roll and supersized virus.

Zoom allows you to use third party filters as a camera input.
An online video team meeting went viral when a boss couldn’t undo the potato filter effect
Image credit: @PettyClegg


Video calling apps and platforms ranked


Whether you’re staying in touch with family, hanging out with friends, or looking for a better place to meet colleagues and teammates online, there are several video calling apps to choose from. With COVID-19 projected to last for the long term, be sure to stay connected while you stay safe – it’s the best way to stay sane as you help flatten the curve.