Here are the best free video calling apps for mobile and desktop

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We’ve covered just about everything about working/socialising and shopping from home. But you really don’t have to be socially distant. There are so many ways to see your fam and friends for free using a few video chat apps

From group video calls to one-on-one conversations, each of the options we’ve listed will help you stay in touch with the important people in your life. Especially if you’re just in need of some human connection. It’s a good thing to just talk to (and see) someone you love every now and then. 

So, whether you fancy a catch-up with your crew or want to try a rabbit filter on an unsuspecting relative, download one now for a welcome dose of human contact.

Skype

Get Skype (free) / iOS, Android, Desktop, Web

Ten years ago you had one option to video call: Skype. It has long since become a synonym for face-to-face chats online. It might not be the most user-friendly option, but it’s still a good option. Especially for people chatting cross-platform.

More than that, it offers a bunch of free features that make it great for both work and non-work. It can host groups of up to 50 participants, with easy screen sharing and even the option to blur out your background. Your boss doesn’t need to know you’re still in bed at 2 pm. 

You can even add credit to call real phones around the world at competitive rates – which is perfect if your buddy has run out of data and you really need a chat.

Google Duo

Get Google Duo (free) / iOS, Android, Web

Remember Hangouts? Yeah we also thought it disappeared… Well, Duo is also made by Google, but it ditches messaging for quality video calls.

It’s also not just made for Google/Android devices. Duo is designed to stream easily on mobile, web and Google Nest kit. You can host up to seven other people on a call, totalling eight people at once. That’s enough people for a… game of cricket? We don’t do sports that much. 

You can even enable a thing called the Knock Knock feature, which will show the person you’re calling a live preview of your lovely mug before they pick up. If they don’t answer? Leave them a quick video message, presumably asking why they ignored you when you know they’re spending the lockdown braaiing alone.

WhatsApp

Get WhatsApp (free) / iOS, Android, Web

Okay, bra. We know you already know what WhatsApp is. But it’s still the most widely used chat app and you can do some fresh video calls on it. Stuff’s team still uses it daily. 

Straightforward but effective, WhatsApp keeps video call features to a minimum, ditching filters and advanced settings in favour of a reliable connection that works well even when your signal is poor. Other than that, you can mute your mic, switch to the back camera or drop video altogether to make it a voice call.

Tap the video camera icon in a chat for a one-on-one call, or do the same in a group for communal convos with up to three buddies. It’s all free and works on a huge range of mobile phones. All you need to get started is the other person’s phone number.

Houseparty

Get Houseparty (free/IAP) / iOS, Android, macOS, Chrome

You’re all lus for a lekker house party. But with COVID-19 doing the rounds, we can’t Cyril will klap you. So make a digital party using Houseparty from the comfort of your home.

The Houseparty app alerts you when your friends are online and lets you strike up a chat. So far so simple, but the twist is that your mates (and their mates) can spontaneously drop in on your calls as they please – and you can do the same to them.

You can include up to eight people in the join a party at any one time, with the option to start games or share your screen if the banter dries up. You can also lock a chat if you need alone time with Carl. 

Facetime

Get FaceTime (free) / iOS

What’s better than video calling 31 of your iPhone-owning friends at the same time? Calling those same 31 friends while replacing your face with a cartoon poo. That’s considering you have 31 friends who own iPhones… 

Apple’s official video chat app, Facetime, is one of the most well-known video call apps, but you need an Apple’branded product. It’s got an uncomplicated approach that makes it a cinch to use even for first-timers, but there’s also the option to mix things up with stickers or, if your iDevice is new enough, to transform your face into an animated emoji that mirrors your expressions. Think unicorns, puppies and, yes, a poo.

Facebook Messenger

Get Facebook Messenger (free/IAP) / iOS, Android, Web

Remember when communicating through Facebook was limited to posting public quips on the walls of your peers? Things have come a long way: not only is Messenger now a standalone app, but it’s a fully-fledged social platform in its own right – video calling included.

Hit the video camera icon in any chat and you’ll be able to have a high-definition face-to-face chinwag with up to eight mates at the same time. Not entertained? Try one of the countless interactive features – from games where you munch flying hamburgers until you get fat, to filters that make you look like a mouse. 

You don’t need a Facebook account to sign up and you can even call your mates without their mobile numbers. Simply download the app or log in online to get things started.

Zoom

Get Zoom (free) / iOS, Android, Web

Need to host a conference call from your home office? Don’t pay for participation: Zoom’s the place to be. I mean, be at your house. 

There are several paid plans, but the most basic one is free and bags your gang a whole host of conferencing features. A whopping 100 people can dial into the same video call, with handy tools including simultaneous screen sharing and virtual backgrounds (ideal for hiding your inappropriate wall art or, you know, pretending you’re actually on the call).

Video quality is limited to 720p on the complimentary tier – more than enough for most – while calls can only be 40 minutes long. Which is probably a blessing in disguise.

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