As we are all staying at home we need to find different ways to stay connected – for work, to keep in touch with family and to socialise with friends. Luckily there are now more and more ways we can do that.
Now we are all getting to grips with social conferencing and video calling sites and apps (and we have listed some of our favourites here, but there are more and more ways we can get online, be social and beat the isolation blues.
These are just a few of out favourites:
Best for Business Meetings - Zoom
Zoom Meetings offers a video conferencing and messaging solution for desktop and mobile devices, that aims to be very quick and easy to set up, and offer a wide range of scalable features.
Not only does it provide HD video and audio, but it can support up to 1,000 participants at the same time, and up to 49 videos on a single screen, though such large gatherings are probably best suited to big-screen monitors.
Meetings can be saved locally or to the cloud, along with transcripts that have searchable text to work with. Additionally, collaboration is built in with the ability for participants to share their screens and work together to provide their own notes as required. On top of this a team chat feature allows for file sharing, a searchable history, and a ten year archive. Meetings can also be escalated into one-on-one calls.
You are limited to 40 minute calls for free – so if you want longer you’ll have to pay for a pro, business or enterprise package but at between £11.99 and £15.99 a month we think it is great value.
Best for Socialising with Family and Smaller Groups – Houseparty
Houseparty is a relatively recent addition to the video chat market, but it has quickly become very popular, and with good reason. For one thing, it tries to make video calls as slick and seamless as possible, by alerting you as soon as a friend launches the app, so you know they’re ready to talk. It will do the same for them when you launch the app, and even turns your camera on.
There are also built-in games that you can play with your friends, so it goes beyond conversation. Though video calls on Houseparty only support up to eight participants, so it’s not ideal for big groups.
Best for Socialising with Friends and Larger Groups - Skype
Skype has been around forever and is a name everyone recognises. But maybe has been a little forgotten in the video chat boom in recent weeks and months. Probably unfairly.
It runs on every platform you can possibly imagine (including Xbox One) so is easy for everyone to access. It also allows up to 24 participants at once, supports voice and text chats as well and gives you a massive amount of flexibility in both numbers and features.
Best for Playing Games Together – Board Game Arena
Board Game Arena is the world’s number one platform for playing board games online.
There are 175 games and you can play with your friends or strangers.
It is free to play most games, but in these busier times they are limiting play to premium members at the busiest times.
Best for Watching Films and TV Together – Netflix Party
Netflix Party is a new way to watch Netflix with your friends online. It synchronises video playback and adds a group chat to your favourite shows.
So you can host movie nights, chat about your favourite shows and enjoy being social over your favourite entertainment.
The Best of the Rest
Better known for text chats and voice calls WhatsApp is also a great platform for video calls – as long as you only want to talk to 3 other people at once.
You can customise your party, upload screenshots, emojis and GIFS and enjoy your favourite shows together without ever leaving the house.
We would have recommended FaceTime, bus as all participants need to be on an Apple device we couldn’t. So Google Duo makes it onto our list (as it can be used on any platform).
The app launches the camera for you, is easy and quick to access and has features like ‘Knock Knock’ – which lets you view the video of the person calling before you answer.
It is limited to 12 users though – so might not be suitable for bigger groups.
Instagram has just launched Co-Watching – which allows you to share and scroll images and feeds with your friends as you video chat.
Again numbers are limited to 4 though, so this isn’t for bigger groups.