My family and I started doing Sunday morning Zoom chats, and if you think that means that one time we spent 40 minutes trying to figure out why my grandpa’s video wasn’t working, only to discover that there was a cover on the camera the whole time, you would be correct. I, like many people, was not aware of the plethora of video chat apps available before entering life in the time of COVID-19, because I didn’t really need them on account of the whole actually being able to see people IRL.
While most of the video chat apps are pretty similar, as in they allow you to chat with multiple people on one screen, some have features that make them better suited for certain situations. Hosting a game night? What about a girls night in? Calling your mom so she can walk you through how to roast a chicken? There is… an app for that. (Ah, to be back in 2009 again.) Here, the best video chat apps for groups.
Best video chat for a virtual game night: Houseparty
Number of people: Up to 8
Houseparty is probably my most-used video chat app during this time, because you can play games on it. Sure, it’s fun to just chat and catch up with my friends but, let’s be honest, there’s not always a ton to talk about because we’re stuck inside all day and there is only so much talk about sourdough starters that you can take. The only downside—some of the games cost money. But, I’d say it’s worth it to pay for those extra decks in Heads Up.
As the name suggests, it’s designed to be like a house party but, you know, virtual. Which means that it alerts your friends when you log on (though there are ways to sneak on unannounced), and you can pop in and out of “rooms” AKA chats. So just remember to lock the room if you’re, idk, playing strip poker with a person you met on Hinge so that your friends won’t pop in.
Best for cooking with your mom: FaceTime
Number of people: Up to 32
TBH, FaceTime is probably the best out of all of these, because it’s straightforward, simple to use for many ages, and you can also do group audio calls. And it comes pre-downloaded on your iPhone. But, you can’t FT with your non-iPhone-having friends. It’s great for any basic conversation—but especially helpful when you need moral support from your mom while you attempt to roast your very first chicken and can’t figure out which side should be face up.
Best for going to a virtual party: Zoom
Number of people: Up to 100
Yes, you’re probably sick of Zoom because that’s where you take all of your meetings now. But it’s great for so much more—think virtual happy hours, dinner parties, birthday toasts, etc. I’m even part of a weekly wine tasting, which is a lot of fun and is a nice change from the other nights of the week where it’s me drinking wine alone on my couch and yelling at people in movies for not practicing social distancing. Plus I get to post things on Instagram about “rediscovering Rieslings,” which is a pretty apt insight into my current mental state.
In other words, the (Zoom) limit does not exist! Unless you’re talking about time, in which case free sessions are capped at 40 minutes, with the option to purchase more time. (But, honestly, what a great excuse not to have to come up with a reason to log off.)
Best if you know people with Androids: WhatsApp
Number of people: Up to 16
If you have friends or family with green text bubbles to your blue (or vice versa), it can be tricky to find an app that everyone can use for video chats. While WhatsApp is best-known as a way to be able to text internationally, it also has a solid video chat app. It’s pretty no-frills, and kind of feels like the video chat version of a group text where one person has an Android, but everyone still insists on “heart-ing” and “liking” comments. But it still gets the job done (the job being the ability to talk to another human’s face).
Best for catching your friends up on your quarantine love life: Squad
Number of people: Up to 6
If you miss the good old days where you could go sit at a bar and swipe through Bumble with your friends, Squad is the app for you. Its standout feature is that you can screen share with the other people in your video chat—meaning they can keep you from swiping right on the really hot dude who only lists his Instagram handle in his bio (but you’re tipsy and it’s been months since you’ve seen a set of abs IRL and likely to break self-imposed swipe rules).
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