In the past, videoconferencing was a low-key background kind of tech, used for specialized remote global workplaces, home-based employees, or chats between far-flung friends and family. Today, the pandemic remains front and center in the videoconferencing realm for both business and personal communication.
The apps below facilitate mobile face-to-face meetings, accompanied by chat, screen sharing, and other business-oriented features. If you need a more family-style chat app or have a small business, check out our selection of mobile video chat apps.
Zoom Cloud Meetings
The free Zoom Cloud Meetings is an easy way for work teams and clients to stay connected regardless of physical location. The app delivers high-quality video, audio, screen sharing, and cross-platform instant messaging. Connect with anyone on your mobile device, Windows, Mac, Zoom Rooms, H.323/SIP room systems, or telephones. All you have to do is start a meeting and invite anyone in your contact list to join in. Virtual backgrounds are available on some later handset models and operating systems. The app works over Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, and 3G networks, letting you share and co-annotate screens and applications or use Zoom’s chat and phone services. You can limit screen sharing only to the meeting host, log meeting reactions, and change your co-participants’ audio status. It now offers custom languages for language interpretation and phone audio options for webinars. The newest versions feature enhancement to 3-way calling for Zoom Phone, meeting and webinar features, additional authentication options, enhanced practice session and live webinar notifications, enhanced chat search filter, call monitoring for shared line groups, and various interface enhancements.
Link with up to 25 colleagues with Skype on your mobile phone for an HD video call. You can also use Skype to send SMS messages, place voice calls to both mobile and landline phones, send GIFs, chat, share photos and videos, or share your screen for business presentations. The app lets you read and reply to phone-based SMS messages on your desktop computer. A Director’s Cut feature lets you upload up to 10 minutes per video from mobile, up from the previous single minute. You can also schedule group calls, translations for conversations, and add checkmarks, cross marks to emoticons, easily delete multiple contacts, and support for Android Auto. Skype calls now support up to 100 participants for audio group calls and facilitate custom message reactions. You can now raise your hand during a group call and smart share suggestions.
Free Conference Call
Need to set a meeting? Free Conference Call, an easy-to-use collaboration tool, allows the flexibility of holding online meetings with HD audio, videoconferencing, and screen sharing. Host or join a meeting, share content, or chat with participants anywhere at any time. The app provides free audio conferencing for up to 1,000 participants and online meetings with screen sharing. Just tap the invite link from your email or tap the FreeConferenceCall.com icon and enter the meeting credentials to hook into the session. Once you have joined, you can dial into the conference call using your internet connection and interact with documents by zooming in or out of shared content.
Google Meet offers a simple way to conduct videoconferencing and keep teams tight regardless of where members are located. The app features high-definition video meetings with up to 250 participants, easy access via a one-click shared link, and the ability to dial into any meeting for audio phone call-ins. It’s designed to work with Google Calendar, which makes it easy to schedule, view meeting details, and join right away. You must give permission for Google to access your camera, microphone, and photo library in order to use the app. Newer versions let you directly present your mobile screen into your meeting without having to join the call, offer real-time captions, and facilitate international dial-in numbers for meetings. Now, any user with a Google account can start a meeting via Google Meet.
The mobile GoToMeeting offers accessible and reliable meetings anywhere on the planet. It’s easy to jump into a meeting without having to sign up. You can also host a conference on any smartphone or tablet for free without a credit card. You get clear VoIP audio, face-to-face videoconferencing, the ability to share your device screen with meeting participants, the option to hand off presentation control to various attendees, and the ability to view presentations. You can also see all of your upcoming meetings and join with a tap, as well as get alerts when a session is about to start or chat with other attendees. If you already use GoToMeeting at the office, you can sync your calendar to your mobile device to join meetings and use the commuter mode to save up to 90% of data when joining a mobile conference. With new Switch Video Modes, you can now switch between seeing the active speaker or six cameras at the same time.
BlueJeans offers business videoconferencing via Wi-Fi or 4G LTE, making it easy and affordable for businesses to host or join videoconferences from anywhere. The app works alongside the BlueJeans service to provide multi-party video calls on the go with a variety of conferencing systems, including Polycom, Cisco, LifeSize, and Microsoft Lync. You can host meetings via the BlueJeans app, but attendees do not need an account. You can also host or join a video meeting with up to 25 participants — or up to 100 with the premium service. The app provides three new meeting modes: Standard for a full meeting experience, including audio, video, and content; Low data with audio and content only; and Commute for on-the-go audio-only meetings. It also includes closed captioning and support for app shortcuts. New versions support pre-assigned breakout rooms, updated interface, and support for music and group audio modes.
Cisco Webex Meetings
Cisco Webex Meetings helps make remote meetups less of a drag by helping you achieve engaging, productive video and audio conferencing from your location, complete with sharing and chat. You can join and conduct presentations from any meeting, event, or training directly from your iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch while operating with hands-free voice commands using Siri. It also supports Facebook Portal and Google Nest Hub. You can join a meeting from a single tap on your calendar as well as schedule meetings directly from the app. You can also customize your video layouts, share your content, or screen to everyone, and, for iOS, quickly sign in using Face ID or Touch ID. New versions support Q&A for meetings, scheduled meeting lobby, and custom layouts.
If your workplace is using Office 365, you are likely familiar with Microsoft Teams, where all your conversations, files, meetings, and apps share a workspace that you can easily access from your mobile device. As a teamwork hub, Teams lets you manage projects on the go, complete with file editing and sharing. You can connect face-to-face with HD audio and video and join meetings from wherever you are. You can also chat privately or in groups, and communicate in designated channels, save conversations, customize notifications, search chats and communications, and get enterprise-level security while you’re at it. The app requires a paid commercial subscription to Office 365 or a free or trial version of Microsoft Teams. It features free meetings, letting you send meeting invites via a link, the ability to search inside chats and channels and upload images directly to your gallery, and the ability to manage your Safe key or let Microsoft manage it for you. Newer versions let you use reactions in your next Teams meeting or call, send animated thumbs up, heart, clapping, or laughter, present in live events from your iPad, remove cached data from the sign-in page, and allows mobile meeting attendees to join breakout rooms
Why use a videoconferencing app?
Over the last year, workplaces and schools worldwide required people to quarantine and socially distance and many people plan to remain remote for the foreseeable future. Many workplaces are not requiring a full-time return to the office even after the pandemic dangers subside. A Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research study concluded that 42% percent of U.S. workers are now working from home full time and that working from home — at least one or two days a week — is here to stay. As businesses and employees get more comfortable with working in home offices and educational institutions still struggle to get better at remote learning, videoconferencing apps emerge as critical tools.
Some companies already stepped up to the plate with additional services to help people work from home. Google has extended unlimited calls in its Google Meet platform, making the feature available for free through June 2021. Businesses, schools, and companies can leverage features such as meetings with up to 250 participants and livestreaming with up to 100,000 viewers within a domain. Google Meet is already included in G Suite and G Suite for Education accounts.
Microsoft is continuing to offer some advanced features of Microsoft Teams, including virtual meetings and video or audio calls spanning 24 hours with up to 300 participants, until further notice. You can schedule an unlimited number of meetings and meet for up 24 hours, get up to 10GB of shared and 2GB of personal free cloud storage, guest access for clients and external partners, data encryption, unlimited chat, collaboration with large and small teams, and the ability to connect across Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. It’s available in 53 languages and 181 markets. Together Mode for Teams lets you create your own virtual live avatar for meetings, using A.I. to capture your face and shoulders and place you and your co-workers together in a virtual space.
Zoom removed time limits from its free personal 1:1 video chat option, and offers three levels of tiered subscriptions to the service for small, medium, and enterprise-level companies. The Zoom for Home feature, included with Zoom Meetings licenses, lets anyone use a personal collaboration device for video meetings, phone calls, interactive whiteboarding, and annotation. This can include specific appliances like a stand-alone 27-inch touch screen, Portal from Facebook, Amazon Echo Show, and Google Nest Hub Max.
Beyond the obvious advantages during the pandemic, videoconferencing is known to boost productivity among employees and teams with enhanced interactions with colleagues, partners, and clients. Companies benefit from lower travel costs and abbreviated project times. For now, remote employees, associates, and clients can rely on excellent videoconferencing apps to keep business running smoothly, complete with virtual face-to-face communications. While the desktop traditionally hosts many sophisticated videoconferencing applications, the need to hold meetings while out in the field is critical.