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Who knew that video-conferencing apps would become such a big part of everybody’s lives so quickly? People around the world have swiftly pivoted from IRL socialising to Zoom, Houseparty, FaceTime, Skype and all the other video-chat apps out there. But which is the best, which one should you be using to keep in touch with your friends, family and Tinder dates, and – with people switching away from Zoom due to security concerns – which apps will keep your conversations private? Here’s our ranking of the best free video-call apps around, including what you need to know about each.
What’s the best video app?
For the list below, we’ve considered a number of key factors for each app. These include how easy each app is to set up and use, how responsive it is (including its ‘latency’, or the amount of delay on the line), how many people can join a call, whether it uses end-to-end encryption for security, and whether it has any fun extra bells and whistles that can make video-calling feel less awkward.
Every app we’ve listed below is free to use in its basic form, though some have premium features that you can pay extra for.
How safe are video apps like Houseparty and Zoom?
Like every internet tool ever invented, video-calling apps have occasionally been exploited by bad people to do bad things – from sexual flashing to hacking bank accounts. As more and more people use video-conferencing, there have been reports of harmful and illegal behaviour on apps like Zoom, Whereby and Houseparty – all of which have robustly defended their technology’s security measures.
It is important to note that some apps use genuine end-to-end encryption, where only those involved in the conversation can watch or listen to the call. This means, in theory, that your conversations will only be heard by participants – not the companies who run the apps, the government or any nefarious hacker types. Other apps (including Zoom) do not offer genuine end-to-end encryption. If you’re worried about privacy, it’s worth making sure that you use an encrypted service. We’ve highlighted these below, based on what information is available right now.
Plus, whenever you’re using any of the apps below, remember to take basic security measures: don’t share your call details or account passwords anywhere public; lock your virtual ‘room’ and don’t admit strangers unless you’re sure you want to talk to them; don’t pass on personal or financial information via video call; and remember: you can hang up any time you want to. Happy chatting!