The best video conferencing apps for socialising and working from home | Real Homes

The best video conferencing apps for socialising and working from home

Whether you're working from home or self-isolating right now, it's so important to stay connected and keep morale high. These are some of the best ways to video call your loves ones and colleagues

the best video conferencing apps and software
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We bet you never thought you would be looking for the best video conferencing apps this time last month (or even last week) did you? If you’re self-isolating or working at home at the moment due to COVID-19 precautions set out by your employer or doctor, you're going to be spending less time with others apart from anyone in your household. If you're working from home, chances are you’re going to be dabbling in a little video conferencing. And if you need to self-isolate, keeping in touch with relatives and friends via a video call is a great way to keep morale high. 

Now we’ve all been in the middle of a video call or meeting where ‘technical difficulties’ get in the way. Never ideal, especially at a time like this. So in a bid to spare you painful delays, horrendous image freezes and all the rest that can happen as soon as video calls happen, we’ve rounded up the best video call and conferencing apps available for you to use, as well as the best tech and devices for you to use them on.

How to access video calling apps

To make your video calls and conferencing experience even more seamless, we would recommend downloading their app versions, most of which are compatible with these devices:

  • Apple iPad 10.2": perfect for FaceTime if you need to call a pal or relative. While you can also get connected for work too. Tune in or present your video conference on a defined retina display with adapted sound and easy download of your video conferencing apps, of course. This one also supports the smart keyboard so it will feel like you're on a computer, with everything you need at your fingertips. Most of the video conferencing apps below can be downloaded on iOS so this is a failsafe option.
  • Echo Show: compatible with Skype, call your nan, start a conference, dim the lights and check the weather while you're at it with help from Alexa. If you're not using Skype, everyone on the call will need an Echo Show or one will need to have the Alexa app installed on another device.
  • Portal from Facebook: ideal for use with Facebook messenger calls and videos, plus, additional apps for conferencing may be downloaded too. This cool device adjusts to your movements for the best video call image and experience. It will also tweak sound settings to overcome background noise and facial recognition will ensure the security of your call. 

The best video conference apps: if you're working from home, self-isolating or both

These are all brilliant in both a business and social setting, so we'd simply recommend checking out which ones will suit your needs right now and you're sure to become a video conferencing convert in no time.

Zoom Conferencing

Zoom is a very cool video conferencing tool that can keep you connected while you're on the go, or on this occasion, staying at home. It's packed with features that make it one of the best in terms of productivity in a business setting, while Zoom also offers a great 'Basic' plan for free which is perfect for using to connect with family and friends, or for small scale meetings. In the 'Basic' plan you can video call for up to 40 minutes and with three or more people so whichever Zoom pricing plan you go for depends on how big your family is, or how packed your meetings are!

Our favourite features:

  • Easy video calling and IM
  • Handy app available on most smartphones and other devices
  • Training and technical support available for online meetings
  • Makes large scale video calls, webinars and more possible
  • Cross-platform business messaging, IM and file sharing
  • You can create collaborative conference rooms

Amazon Chime 

Amazon Chime is a great communication tool that well and truly adapts to your needs and those of your business too. It's a pay-as-you-go service which means that you only pay on the days you use it, and only for the features and functionalities that work for you. You'll have the option of creating meetings, instant messaging others and business calling where you can easily share content with others both inside and outside of your organisation too. 

There's a handy mobile app available for iOS and Android devices, as well as desktop alternatives of course. Simply register for a free Amazon Chime account to get started. You'll then be able to upgrade to Amazon Chime Pro or include additional pay-as-you-go features including Business Calling.

Our favourite features:

  • Screen sharing functionality
  • Secured video and phone calls
  • Meeting reminders across all devices
  • Voice Connector directs your voice traffic over the internet
  • Freedom to upgrade or downgrade resources 
  • Call recording features

Workplace

Workplace from Facebook is an innovative and collaborative video conferencing tool that let's teams connect much like friends can on Facebook. As it's compatible with different workplace suites, it's easy for most people to get set up on quickly. You can start chats and video calls where the max participants depends on the rate you choose. If you start with the Essential rate (which is free), you can have up to 20 people on a video call, and this goes up to 50 people per call in the next two tiers available.

Our favourite features:

  • Seamless video calls
  • Easy to use mobile app
  • Compatible with G Suite, Office 365 and Dropbox
  • Ability to broadcast and share files
  • It's secure
  • You can automate daily tasks with bots
  • Bright interface which let's you add to your newsfeed
  • Fairly priced

Skype for Business

This software is part of Office 365 and if this is your business suite of choice then it’s a sound option to go with. Most of us are familiar with Skype, and Skype for business has the same feel but comes with added business features to help boost productivity. Meetings are straightforward to set up, and it's a very streamlined service that will allow you to broadcast a meeting to entire teams, or even a large audience, from a distance with ease. In a matter of seconds, you can IM, phone call, video chat or set up a meeting and you'll easily be able to see which of your contacts are available, in a meeting, or presenting too.

Our favourite features:

  • Industrial strength security for calls
  • Call information and links are added to invites automatically
  • Meeting participants can still attend even if they don’t have Skype for Business
  • Recording in full HD available
  • Screen sharing functionality

WhatsApp Group Calling

Everyone loves a bit of WhatsApp and what is a great tool for staying in touch with friends and family can actually double up as an easy video conferencing tool also.

Same app, same concept, simply download WhatsApp for free, create a group for the people you wish to include in your call and click the phone + sign in the top right hand corner of your screen to then select the people in that conversation that you'd like to be on your call. The max is currently four people so we recommend this video conferencing app for informal meetings with small groups or for one on one catch ups.

Our favourite features:

  • WhatsApp is free on mobile and desktop
  • Easy and fairly fun to use
  • Perfect for smaller and more informal meetings
  • Simple screenshot and link sharing