Video calling has never felt more essential for more people. Luckily, it’s also never been easier. There are plenty of options available, and they don’t cost a cent. The biggest hurdle is that all the options aren’t universal.
How to FaceTime on an Android device is a common question, for example. But there’s no Facetime on Android phones (or Windows laptops). FaceTime is Apple’s video calling app, specifically. But you can still do Samsung video calls, just in a different way.
No matter which devices are involved, we’ll walk you through the best options for live video chat.
Do I Need Anything Special to Video Chat?
All you need is a phone, tablet, or computer with a camera and a microphone.
But if you’re thinking about dedicated video chat devices for the home, there’s the Google Nest Hub Max, Portal from Facebook, and Amazon’s Echo Show (plus a few other video-capable competitors).
Just be sure to check beforehand which video calling programs each supports.
How to Video Chat if You’re on the Same Operating System or Platform
Phones and tablets make it easy to video call anytime, anywhere (data permitting). If all parties are using the same operating system — Apple or Android — it should be pretty easy to connect.
How to video call on a Samsung will work the same as on a Motorola, Pixel, or One Plus. None of them have universal video software like FaceTime, but you can run the same video chat apps with the Android operating system.
You can also easily coordinate video chat using messaging or social media apps, even between Apple and Android.
Best for Apple: FaceTime
FaceTime is easy, convenient, and just plain works. Because Apple builds it into all their products, users never need to seek an alternative.
Unfortunately, it isn’t available at all outside of iOS products. Can you FaceTime on Android? Never. (But if you have an older relative who thinks all video calls are FaceTiming, it might be easier to refer to it as “Android FaceTime.”)
Best for Android: Google Duo or Google Meet
Since Android is a Google product, Google Duo is probably the closest thing to FaceTime for Android. It’s pre-installed on a bunch of Android phones and otherwise available in the Play Store. It replaces the older Hangouts, which will begin phasing out for consumers sometime in 2021.
Similar to FaceTime, Duo is designed for a few friends or family. It supports up to 12 participants and has a simple interface with fun options. For larger or less informal group calls, Google Meet may be the answer, with a slick, clean interface and up to 100 participants.
Best for Social Media and Messaging
- You can video call through Facebook, using the desktop version directly or the Messenger app on your phone.
- However, Facebook removed the option to sign up for Messenger without an FB account, so you can’t just jump in with your phone number.
- Not on Facebook but still on Insta? The latest versions of the app have a video chat option — if you can direct message someone, you can video call them.
- Their group call function is limited to 6 users so far, but with co-watching, you can all browse through posts together while video chatting.
- You may remember WhatsApp video call groups being tiny if you used them in the past, but the participant limit was recently upgraded to 8 encrypted connections and up to 50 using un-encrypted Facebook Messenger Rooms.
- More importantly, you don’t need any external accounts, only a phone number, to sign up.
- This is a great option if you already use WhatsApp for messaging, but the video chat is only available on mobile and not computers.
- Discord may be a bit niche: It’s a chat platform built for gamers, but plenty of other groups create chat rooms on it, too (called servers). You can use it as a personal messenger that’s not connected to your name or phone number at the individual level.
- If you’re on Discord, you can video call individuals or groups (up to 10 people usually, 25 currently) from your computer or the mobile app. Plus, screen sharing and live game streaming open up other fun possibilities with friends.
The Best Ways to Video Chat Across Platforms or From a Computer
Although you can’t FaceTime with Android, plenty of Android apps do work for iPhone. They aren’t built-in, but they eliminate the cross-platform problem if you can get the other parties to download and sign up.
You can video call Samsung to iPhone — or any Android to iPhone, or vice versa — using almost every single method mentioned above:
- Google Duo or Meet
This isn’t a perfect solution, but your contacts probably have at least a Facebook or Google account or a mobile phone number. Based on existing accounts, try to narrow down options and keep the process simple.
Now when it comes to web or desktop applications, we’ve already mentioned that Facebook and Discord work, along with Google Meet. Facebook and Meet can run in a web browser, while certain features on Discord require a download.
But there are two tried-and-true, wildly popular options left.
- You can use Zoom through a web browser or download it for desktop or mobile apps on Android and iOS. It’s truly cross-platform, and if you’re only joining a meeting and not creating one, you don’t even need to sign up.
- Technically, Zoom is meeting software for teams or events, but it’s free (with paid tiers if you are getting serious with it), reasonably easy to use, and doesn’t give off weird corporate vibes if you’re just chatting with friends. Plus, like Discord, built-in screen sharing opens up new ways to connect.
- Zoom saw a significant usage increase for 2020 and responded by beefing up security measures, making it safer for everyone. But a remaining drawback is that at the free tier, video calls with three or more users are restricted to 40 minutes. While inconvenient, you can easily work around it.
- Skype also works on the web, on your desktop, and Android and iOS. Being Microsoft-owned, it’ll even run on your Xbox.
- If you or the other parties have Microsoft accounts, you can easily get started on Skype, but really only one person needs to sign in to host a video chat. You can join as a guest, although features may be limited. For signed-in users, there are screen sharing and recording functions.
- Free tier Skype group calls (versus the business tier, Microsoft Teams) have an impressive participant limit of 50 but various time limits. A group video chat can last up to 4 hours, with the overall limits of 10 hours-per-day or 100 hours-per-month. If you exceed any of those limits, the chat will switch to audio-only.
Which method will you be trying out for your next video chat? If the issue is as simple as video calling Android phones from iPhones, we suggest Google Duo — since it’s pretty much the FaceTime Android equivalent.
If laptops or desktop computers are involved, Google Meet, Zoom, or Skype will work nicely.
And if you’re looking to video chat with friends from within your favorite apps, don’t be afraid to experiment and check out what the different video options have to offer.