Video calls — a lifeline in good times and bad
If there is one positive to come out of the terrible events of the COVID-19 pandemic that started in 2020, it is the realization that technology has an increasingly important role to play in society, particularly when people are confined to their homes for a prolonged period of time.
One element of technology that has thrived as a result is video chatting, where you use your device to see and hear someone rather than just talk to them on a phone. During the pandemic, it became one of the main ways for families and friends to keep in touch — and get to see each other.
Video chatting is now firmly embedded as one of our most important means of communication, as it provides a vital link with the outside world during good times and bad. The good news is you probably already have everything you need to dive straight into this exciting world. Here’s your checklist.
- Desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. A tablet is probably the best option for video chatting because it isn’t too large and is easy to carry around.
- Camera or webcam. A lot of computing devices now have these built in, particularly tablets and smartphones. If not, a webcam can be connected to a desktop computer or a laptop using a USB cable.
- These are built into most computing devices, but if you want to upgrade the microphone, an external one can be attached via a USB cable.
- Video chatting app. Many computers already have these pre-installed. If not, you can download them from your device’s app store. Apple uses its own FaceTime app for video chatting, but you have other options too, such as Skype, Zoom, and Facebook Messenger. When making a video call, the person at the other end needs to use the same app as you.
- Internet connection using Wi-Fi. One of the great things about video chatting is that it is free if you use a connection over Wi-Fi.
Skype is one of the premier services for free video and voice calls (to other Skype users, using Wi-Fi) and instant messaging for text messages. It is owned by Microsoft, so it is the default video chatting app on Windows 10 desktop computers and laptops.
However, one of the advantages of Skype is that it is multi- platform, which means it can also be used on Mac computers using macOS, iPads using iPadOS, iPhones using iOS, and Android tablets and smartphones.
You can use the FaceTime app for video chats with other Apple users on a Mac device with macOS, and also an iPad and an iPhone. To start using FaceTime for video chatting, you need to turn it On for the device you are using.
Although Zoom is a relative newcomer to the world of video chatting, it has quickly risen to become one of the biggest players in the market. It is aimed primarily at video conferencing for businesses, but it is also an excellent option for video chats with family and friends.
You can use Zoom on a Windows desktop computer or laptop, a Mac computer or laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone. The Windows and macOS versions can be downloaded from the Zoom website at zoom.us. The Zoom app can be downloaded from the App Store for iPads and iPhones, or the Google Play Store for Android tablets and smartphones.
You may not have known you could use Facebook for video chatting, but its Messenger app is ideal for making video calls. You can download and use it separately from Facebook, although you still sign into the Messenger app with your Facebook account details.
You can make video calls from your tablet and smartphone in addition to your desktop computer or laptop.
- FC&A Staff Writer