Stay in touch while social distancing: The best video apps and how to use them

Apr 01, 2020
Using video call apps can help you to stay connected with colleagues, friends and relatives during self-isolation. Source: Getty.

Around the world, people are spending more and more time indoors, in the comfort and safety of their own homes, in a bid to stem the spread of Covid-19 as the number of confirmed cases and deaths continues to rise. For weeks now Australians, in line with guidelines issued in many other countries, have been asked to follow strict social distancing guidelines, and the prime minister’s most recent advice is to limit social gatherings to no more than two people.

This reduction in social interaction has seen a huge spike in the popularity of video chat applications such as Houseparty, which allows people to video call up to eight people at one time, and Zoom, which is used widely to host business meetings. Even the likes of gyms and beauticians are embracing the technology and holding virtual sessions.

So, as we’re all faced with weeks, if not months, with only our partners and household members for company, here’s a rundown of the best video chat apps available, including how to access and use them.

FaceTime

If you have an Apple device, then you’ll be able to access FaceTime as the app comes automatically installed on any iPhone, iPad or Mac computer. To use the application, which allows you to make both voice and video calls, simply click the icon which looks like a green and white video camera.

If you have never used the app before, it may ask you to log in using your unique Apple ID and password. However, if you’re logging in on your phone, chances are this is already set up.

To place a call – which can include one or a group of people – click the + button in the top right corner and either enter the person’s email address or phone number, but remember, it’s only accessible for those with Apple devices. You can also make a call by opening up your contacts book and selecting ‘FaceTime’ rather than audio call.

Skype

Skype has been around since X, so we’re pretty sure you’ll have at least heard of it, if you haven’t already signed up and given it a try yourself. It is free to use and download, so all you need to do is visit the App Store (or Google Play if you’re an Android user) or go to www.skype.com if you’re using a desktop.

Once Skype has downloaded you will be prompted to create a free account and then sign in. Once you are logged in, you can search for and add contacts using their name, Skype username or email address. To add them to your contacts, simply click their name and send a message. They will then be able to accept or deny your request to connect.

Placing a call is then as simple as opening up your contacts list, finding the person you want to call and clicking either the ‘audio’ or ‘video’ buttons. You can do this for multiple contacts at the same time simply by adding another participant to the call.

The other person(s) will receive an alert telling them they are being contacted by you via Skype and, if they’re available to talk, they can accept. Happy chatting!

Zoom

While predominantly used by businesses to host team meetings and virtually meet with customers and clients, Zoom is super easy – and free – to access via your computer or on a mobile device.

The difference with Zoom is that the host of the meeting is required to send out a link to everyone they wish to take part, as only people with the link or meeting ID/name can enter the call. This makes it the perfect option for professional video calls. If you have received an invite to a Zoom call, you can join the meeting simply by clicking the link provided. Or, if you’d prefer, you can download the application to your desktop or mobile device.

And as Covid-19 causes further clampdowns, many businesses have embraced the trend to stay virtually connected, including gyms, yoga studios and personal trainers across the country who are now offering Zoom sessions for clients online.

In fact, Starts at 60 has used Zoom to host two free Webinars so far, the first of which on March 27 focused on how Covid-19 could impact your money, while the second, which took place on April 1, aimed to answer your burning questions around superannuation, end-of-life planning and the economy.

Houseparty

Despite launching in 2016, this app has enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent weeks as people around the world have been advised to remain at home and refrain from socialising with other people, unless they reside in the same household.

While it can be used to simply video chat with a group of up to 8 people, the app also includes some more fun elements such as in-built house party games. Many people have also been using Houseparty to host their own pub quizzes from home, while bars, pubs and clubs across the country remain closed.

To download Houseparty, you need a smart phone or tablet. Visit the application store on your device and search ‘Houseparty’, then click to download it for free. Once it has downloaded, you can invite your contacts to join the app and start video calling.

Beware though, once you accept a Houseparty invitation, the app opens immediately, so make sure you’re prepared to be seen on camera before doing so!

Facebook Messenger

Chances are you found your way to this article via Facebook, so you no doubt already know how to use the social media app and its in-built messenger service. But have you ever used Facebook to make a video call?

No? To do so, simply go into the messenger app, search for the person you wish to call and click the camera icon in the top right corner of the chat screen. This will call their phone with a request for a video chat. Once they approve the chat you’ll be able to see their face on your screen and they’ll see yours.

If you want to chat to multiple people at once this can be done too, using the ‘add person’ icon in the corner. You can have a total of 50 people on any one call so get ready for a big family chat!

For a more detailed explanation of how to use Facebook Messenger, and its many functions, click here to read our in-depth article.

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Have you used any of these apps before? Do you like to video call people?

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