Tag Archives: Google Hangouts

5 Reasons Why You Should Video Chat This Holiday Season

Let’s face it – most people over the age of 25 don’t like to video chat. Either they remember those early Skype experiments, where the call kept getting disconnected, or they just don’t like the idea of appearing on camera without a full night’s sleep and a couple of hours with their very own hair and make-up department.

But video chat has changed. It’s become so reliable and convenient that millions of people are seamlessly switching between regular voice chats and video chats without batting an eyelid. In fact, with short-form video apps like Vine, Keek and Snapchat, the lines between “normal” chat and video chat are already blurred for much of the younger generation.

With the Holiday season already upon us, it’s the perfect time for the rest of us to give video chat another try. Here are a few more reasons why:

Video chat is more personal

There is no better feeling than being up close and personal with loved ones the Holidays – and if you can’t be together in person, video chat is the next best thing. Show grandma how tall the kids are, or let your sister see how great that sweater looks. Sure, you can always chat on the phone but video chat is much more personal.

Video chat is free

Video chat apps like Skype, Google Hangouts, Tango and ooVoo are completely free, and some of them allow multiple parties to join a call for group video chats. If you’re using a mobile device, be sure to use your home Wi-Fi instead of your cellular network – that way it’s not eating into your data allowance either.

You can chat from anywhere

The overwhelming majority of video apps are built or customized for mobile devices, so you are not tied to your computer or laptop. Let your kids take grandpa on a tour of the house or show friends how good the Christmas tree looks. The front-facing cameras on most tablets and smartphones are ideal for video chat; as long as you stay within range of your Wi-Fi or cellular network, you can take your chat anywhere!

Video quality has improved dramatically

Those interrupted calls and fuzzy images are now a thing of the past. Smarter apps, super-fast networks and HD screens have all combined to make the video chat experience seamless and crystal clear. With mobile devices, we no longer have to worry about flaky webcams that only work when they feel like it. And if you’re worried about those Amoled screens showing a little too much of your early morning face, then you can always appoint yourself Director of Video Chat and carefully point the camera elsewhere!

Video chat is fun!

And the final reason to video chat? It’s just more fun! Your kids love video because it allows them to be clever, funny, serious and goofy all at the same time. Take a leaf out of their book this Holiday season: pick up your phone, throw caution to the wind, and join the video chat party!

7 Messaging Apps That Are Replacing SMS

When texting first became popular, most texts were sent via a wireless carrier’s network. This service (also known as SMS) used to be a huge revenue-generator for the carriers, but is now largely bundled with ‘free’ voice or calling plans as the carriers switch their attention to data.

If you are still using SMS to text your family and friends, then rest assured you are not alone. Despite all the chatter about WhatsApp, SnapChat, Messenger and the rest, SMS remains the #1 messaging option for an overwhelming majority of smartphone owners.

But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way forever. The ability to add multimedia functions, group chats, video calls, and much more is quickly adding to the allure of messaging apps, and it seems only a matter of time before they catch up and even surpass the popularity of SMS.

If you have a teenage son or daughter, it’s almost guaranteed that they are using at least one messaging app. If you are thinking of joining them, here are 7 of the more popular options:

Facebook Messenger

messengerTNUp until now, Facebook included a messaging feature in its social network app, so there was no need for a separate download. However, Facebook has just announced that all future mobile messaging will have to be done through the stand-alone Messenger app. Desktop users will be able to continue to use the built-in messaging app as before.

Messenger includes text, group chat, photo and video sharing options, and even stickers. The good thing about Facebook is that almost everyone is on it, so you won’t have to spend time adding all your contacts.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry


WhatsApp

whatsappTNWith over 500 million active users, WhatsApp is arguably the most popular messaging app in the world – so popular, in fact, that Facebook agreed to pay $19 billion to acquire it! WhatsApp’s strength is its simplicity. Once the app is downloaded, WhatsApp checks your contacts and automatically adds WhatsApp users. You don’t need to send a request to be able to connect through WhatsApp.

WhatsApp supports text messages, group messages, photos and videos, and audio media messages. WhatsApp management has also announced that they are developing a voice option, which will be the equivalent of making a phone call.

Cost: $0.99 per year (first year free)
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone


Skype

skypeTNEstablished as a desktop tool, Skype has made an uneven transition to mobile, disappointing some early adopters and encouraging other messaging services to step up and fill the void. The Skype mobile app supports text messaging, photos and videos, and face-to-face video and voice calls over Wi-Fi or a wireless network. There is also a low-cost voice calling option to mobile devices and landlines.

Cost: Free (with the exception of some calling options)
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone


Google Hangouts

hangoutsTNAlthough Google Hangouts supports an instant text messaging service, its real strength is in multi-person voice and video chats. The video chat option is particularly appealing and supports a number of increasingly sophisticated production options. The messaging app is very basic but it does support photos and GIFs, which can be automatically saved in a Google+ album.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS, Android


SnapChat

snapchatTNExtremely popular among tweens and teens, SnapChat started life as an instant photo-sharing service that allowed users to add a text caption. The photos automatically disappeared after a few seconds, leading to (largely unfounded) fears of teen sexting. SnapChat also supports plain text chat and has recently added Stories, which allows users to video chat simply by pressing and holding the screen.

SnapChat’s success has attracted the attention of Facebook but so far SnapChat’s founders have rebuffed all acquisition attempts. Both Facebook (Slingshot) and Instagram (Bolt) have recently introduced SnapChat competitors, although Bolt is not yet available in the U.S.

Cost: Free
Platform: iOS, Android


LINE

lineTNPopular overseas, LINE supports free voice and video calls as well as regular text messaging, photos and more. Although the app is fee to download, users can spend money on a range of in-app purchases, which include stickers, games and even messages from celebrities. Music and shopping services are expected to follow.

Cost: Free with some optional in-app purchases
Platform: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone


Kik

kikTNWith the decline of BlackBerry (and the beloved BBM), there was an obvious need for a smart and flexible cross-platform messaging tool. Enter Kik, a rapidly-evolving messaging service that now has over 100 million users. With Kik you can exchange text messages, videos, images, emoticons, and more, and features like Kik Cards allow for a surprising level of customization.

Price: Free
Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Phone