The future is here: Using your smartphone or tablet, you can place a video call to someone, just like on The Jetsons. Virtually all mobile devices now have front-facing cameras, as do most laptops. So video calling is both easy to use and pretty much everywhere.
To make or receive a video call, you need an app — either one that comes with your phone or one you download separately. But what apps should you use to place those calls? If you and the person you want to engage each have an iPhone or iPad, you can rely on Apple's FaceTime for video calls. Just open the FaceTime app and tap on the name of the person you want to call, or tap on the name of someone in your Contacts list and tap on the video icon. Android has no built-in equivalent, but supports a variety of video calling apps.
What should you do if you want to cross the signals, say video calling Apple to Android, Mac to Windows or mobile to computer? Let’s check out some of the best apps that work no matter what device you own.
If you and the person on the other end both have Skype (one of the industry's longest running messaging apps, currently owned by Microsoft), presto, you can call each other for a video chat. iPhone and iPad users can snag the Skype app from Apple’s App Store, while Android users can grab it from Google Play.
Skype-to-Skype calls are free, as is the software itself. Just fire up the program, find the person you want to call, and tap on the video call button. The bonus here is that you can make or receive a call on your mobile device as well as on a Mac or Windows computer using the Skype software.
If you’re one of the 2 billion people who use Facebook, you should have the Facebook Messenger app. If not, download it from Apple’s App Store or Google Play. Messenger started life as a texting app but now supports video calls.
To kick off a call in Messenger, tap on the name of a friend, then tap on the video call icon to connect. Messenger video calls work on your computer as well. Just surf to the Facebook website in your favorite browser. If you don’t see your list of Facebook contacts on the right, click on the Options icon in the lower right corner to display it. Click on the name of a contact you want to call, then in the chat window, click on the camera icon to place the video call. You can receive Messenger video calls on your mobile device, or through a computer running Firefox, Google Chrome or Opera.
Here’s another cool calling app that works on Apple and Android devices. With Google Duo installed for both you and the person on the other end, you can make and receive both audio and video calls for free. The only downside: the app is relatively new, so you may not find a lot of your contacts using it yet. But if you like the interface, you can always coax them onboard.
Launch the app on your mobile device, then tap on the New Call or Contacts button. You’ll see the names of any contacts who have the app. You can alternately invite other contacts to download and install Duo. Just tap on the name of a person with Duo and you’re immediately connected via video. As an added treat, a feature dubbed Knock Knock lets you see who’s calling before you answer.
Another free messaging app for iPhones, iPads, and Android devices, WhatsApp lets you text someone, make a voice call, or place a video call. After you launch the app, tap on the Calls icon at the bottom and then tap on the Contacts icon in the upper right. You’ll see a list of contacts who already have WhatsApp installed and are ready and waiting for you to call them. Tap on the video camera icon and your video call starts immediately. WhatsApp also supports Windows and Macs, so you can use the software to send and receive video calls through your computer.
Do you have an Amazon Echo smart speaker? Then you can make and receive video calls through Amazon’s Alexa app. You don’t need an Echo Show with its display screen, you can just use your mobile phone instead. You should already have the Alexa app as it’s needed to set up your Echo. If not, download it from Apple’s App Store or Google Play.
Fire up Alexa on your iPhone or Android phone. Tap on the Conversations icon and then tap on the Contacts icon at the top. You’ll see the names of contacts who use and have registered with the Alexa app. Tap on the contact you want to call and then tap on the camera icon to place a video call. The call is routed to the person’s Echo device and to the Alexa app, where you can see each other.