If you’re staying close to home but still want to socialize, there’s an app for that. Actually probably more than you know.
Video chat apps are clearly seeing a spike on the app charts.
Zoom Cloud Meetings, which is designed for enterprise but free to use in any arena, is currently in the top 10 of Apple’s free iOS app chart at No. 9, followed by Facebook’s Messenger (used primarily for video chat) at No. 11. The Facebook-owned WhatsApp (also primarily chat) is No. 23.
Apps like Apple’s FaceTime come preloaded on iPhones, so they wouldn’t be factored in the chart, and on many Android phones, Google Duo is also now preloaded.
The apps are there, as group video chat platform HouseParty describes it, to “help you and your friends be together when you’re not together.”
But to use, first you need to find ones where your friends already are –or are willing to go. The apps will come to life only if you know other people who are there. And, no, not everyone can access Apple-specific FaceTime, despite its having become synonymous with video chatting.
What about making new friends? The pop.in app is different from FaceTime, Skype and others in that you go on it to meet new people. For the past months the app, which offers nightly games that people play together, on and off camera, had been used by people stuck in the home, like caregivers or parents with young kids.
Over the last five weeks, pop-in has seen 25% to 30% growth each week. It recently needed to add new server capacity to accommodate the increased usage says founder Alex Kruglov.
“You don’t want to see anyone in person, but you still have a longing for human connection,” he says. “The reality that people still want to relate to other humans is starting to hit home for many.”
His app lets people meet and become friends so that an app has become a digital equivalent to going to a bar or comedy show, to play a game with strangers and strike up a conversation, he says.
How do the free apps compare?
The app used most often in the world for free texts, with a huge international audience.
How many people can be on a video chat call: 4.
One of the most popular of the video apps, due to the 1 billion network of iPhone owners. However, it only works within the Apple iOS universe, so you can’t make calls to folks who own Samsung Galaxy or Google Pixel phones.
How many people can be on a call: 32.
Here’s an answer for those who don’t want to worry about whether your friends are Apple or Android. Duo works with both platforms and goes beyond just phones. Duo video calling is also built into the Nest Hub video display units from Google as well and Google has tools to answer Duo calls on the computer.
How many people can be on a call: 8.
Also multiplatform, Google Hangouts has long been a popular video chat app as well. Even though Google has put its marketing emphasis on Duo, the Hangouts app still available in the app stores.
How many people can be in a video hangout: 10
The granddaddy of video chat got its original fame as a way to make free calls overseas. It’s now owned by Microsoft, which has shifted Skype from the old targets of family usage to business. Microsoft now touts starting a meeting with Skype “in 3 simple clicks,” that doesn’t require registration from other participants. Unlike competitors such as Messenger and FaceTime, you don’t use the Skype of today to add in funny stickers and GIFs on your face during a call, but instead, just focus on communication.
How many people can be on a video call: 50
Zoom Cloud Meetings
The Zoom app is free to use. However, the session has a 40-minute limit. Pricing plans start at $14.99 monthly for more participants and longer meetings.
How many people can be on a video call: 100 for free, or more with a fee
The popular chat app from Facebook is primarily used for chatting, and doing other things like sending money and playing games, but video and audio calls are also included in the menu. There is also a version of the Messenger app for kids, tied to a parent or adult account with the ability to add only trusted connections and monitor exchanges. (Also, the profile image for the kids’ account cannot be uploaded; it has to be taken with the app’s camera function.)
How many people can be on a call: 6
The app that targets teens for group video chat is now owned by Epic Games, the makers of the hugely popular Fortnite game.
How many people can be on a video call: 8
Nightly games (Crazy Eights, Liar’s Poker) are played by 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Time. As many as six players are selected to appear on camera, during a pre-game lottery selection.
How many people can be on a video call: 100
Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter