If you live far away from the people you care about, video chatting is the best way to feel more like you’re there with them in person. But there are so many video chat apps out there, many of which only work on certain platforms. How do you know which one to use?
If you’ve tried to set up an initial video chat with someone, you know the problem here. My parents are both iPhone users, but I’m an Android guy. All they know is FaceTime, but I don’t have access to that. Trying to get them to understand what they need to do to chat with me can be…less than fun.
(But seriously, how about cross-platform FaceTime, Apple? We’d all use it.)
Thankfully, we’re here to help. We tested a number of apps on Android, iPhone, Windows, and macOS to find the best one for any given situation. Let’s do this thing.
Our Real Recommendation: Just Use Facebook Messenger
Look, I’ll cut the chase here: Facebook Messenger is a great way to video chat with pretty much everyone you know. You might not have realized Facebook has video chat, but it does—and it’s surprisingly good.
And, since nearly everyone is on Facebook, they probably already have the requisite app, which is available pretty much any platform—Android and iOS have dedicated mobile apps for Messenger, and computer users can just leverage the web version of Messenger.
If you and the person you want to chat with both have Facebook, it’s really a no brainer. Skip the headache and just use that.
If you don’t have Facebook (or are trying to chat with someone who doesn’t), no worries! Continue on for the various platform-based tools.
Windows to Windows: Skype
If you’re a Windows user, Skype is the obvious choice here: it comes bundled with Windows now that Microsoft owns it, and it’s become synonomous enough with video chat that basically everyone has a Skype account. Even if you don’t, you can sign in with Facebook if you want…but if you have Facebook, please just refer back to the previous section of this guide.
Chats Between Two Apple Products (Mac, iPhone, and iPad): FaceTime
Apple users! FaceTime is where it’s at for you guys, but I’ll be honest: I didn’t have to tell you that. You’re probably already on the FaceTime train. If not, aboard. Toot toot!
Seriously, though, it comes on all Macs, iPhones, and iPads, it works great, and everyone knows about it. Why would you use anything else?
Android is a bit more of a convoluted mess than iOS or Mac, because there are a ton of different apps. Skype is available on Android, Facebook Messenger is available on Android, and Google’s older video chat offering, Hangouts, is still quite good on Android. However, when it comes to Android-to-Android chats, there’s a new choice that’s better than all the rest: Google Duo.
This has, at least in theory, become the de facto standard for video chats on Android. It’s honestly the best video chat platform I’ve personally used on Android, as it just seem to work. As much as I hate to admit it, that’s something Android could use more of.
Across Other Platforms: Skype or Hangouts, Probably
Okay, so now for the real head scratcher: video chatting people who don’t have Facebook and use a different platform than you. Ugh.
The obvious choices here are going to be Skype and Hangouts. They’re both available for pretty much every major platform out there—Skype is on Windows, Android, Mac, and iOS; while Hangouts is available on Android, iOS, and the web. You’ll only need an applicable account to use either of them.
It’s also worth mentioning that if you’re trying to chat Android to iOS, Google Duo is available on both platforms as well. That would be my recommendation in that situation, though the other options mentioned here would also work.