While smartphones introduced video calling feature some time back with dual-camera phones, it did not take off due to high data costs and connectivity issues. But with most phones now sporting 4G technology, video is gaining ground again. So much so, that one of the largest social media platforms, WhatsApp, with over a billion monthly active users, could not ignore the lure of video calling and introduced the feature early this week. Ishaan Gera reviews the newly launched service along with its competitors to determine whether the chat platform can unseat the existing players.
One of the most widely used platforms, WhatsApp is probably the easiest to install and work around with. The app uses the phone’s contact list to build up its database and all one has to do is click on the profile to start chatting. While the service has had a calling feature for long now, the only thing missing was video. WhatsApp call has become an industry standard, given the data used and the quality of service and the company has replicated the same for video as well. The app does not use much data nor does it require too much of battery. The call works perfectly even when network connectivity is not at its best. Though video flakes out at times—that is more due to data connectivity—the voice part continues to function perfectly. But what is irksome is the access to video calls. While WhatsApp has a neatly stacked icon on the top for voice call, for video, one has to click on the person’s profile and scroll down to access it. Hopefully, this is something WhatsApp will correct in the next few updates. Moreover, while WhatsApp does provide a secure and convenient experience as one does not have to switch apps for video, it lacks some of the advanced features like translate or group calling offered by others.
Launched earlier this year, Google’s Duo is the simplest video calling app available, but unfortunately it does nothing more. The registration doesn’t require a Google account, like its predecessor, as it uses the mobile phone number and phone’s contact book as its primary source. The interface is simple where one can just make a call by tapping on the number. Although Google does not have voice calling, it says it will soon introduce that feature. It also has a Knock Knock feature which allows contacts to see your video even before they have picked up your call. While quality-wise, Google does better than most others, one can also save data as there is a ‘limit mobile data usage’ option. So, if you are looking for plain video calling, Google is the way to go.
Skype is the grand-dad of video calling, but it has been innovating faster than most other platforms offered on mobile. The Microsoft offering recently announced a real-time translation feature for 50 languages via instant message and seven using video. The app is platform agnostic with downloads available for Android, Windows or iOS. While the interface is clumsy as the app requires login each time you open it and uses much more battery than others, Skype can be downloaded on desktop as well. Still one of the best video apps, it has a group video call facility and offers calls to landline in its paid version. It also allows you to create a Skype number for a fee. Moreover, it offers instant messaging and one can even minimise screen and access other apps while using video calling.
Facebook’s other offering, Messenger, combines everything from chats to voice and video calling service. Messenger allows group video calling and lets users minimise their calling screen to use Facebook chat like Skype. Not as agnostic as Skype, it is accessible via Chrome, Firefox and Opera. While it consumes a lot of battery, it is still more economical than Skype. The only downside to it is the registration which requires a Facebook ID which may not be as easy to create as WhatsApp. While the service is good, the video quality deteriorates quite often. But the service integrates mobile and Facebook contacts, which gives it an edge over the others.
Apple’s founder Steve Jobs introduced its voice and video calling service back in 2010. The app has a simple platform and doesn’t require any registration. It syncs with the phone contacts and one can access the feature even using the contact book. FaceTime is well calibrated so it uses much less battery in comparison to other apps and also has a better response. It also features an audio call feature which, at times, trumps a regular call in terms of audio quality. But the only downside is that one has to buy an Apple product in order to use it.