Celebrate The Holidays... Virtually

Staying connected is incredibly important during the holiday season and beyond. Just because you're stuck at home doesn't mean you can't celebrate the holidays with your loved ones. Check out these video conferencing tools to see which one best works for you.

Video conferencing has been a valuable tool for people to connect during the COVID-19 pandemic without having to leave their houses.  Whether you’re abiding by your city’s stay-at-home measures or you have a mobility or illness issue keeping you at home, there are several resources to help you stay in touch with family over the holidays.  From the newly popular Zoom to Apple’s built-in FaceTime app, each tool has its own unique features that you’ll want to consider.  

Here’s everything you need to know about the different video conferencing resources available to help you decide:

Zoom

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoom has blown up as the most popular and widespread video conferencing tool for a variety of applications.  From family get-togethers to online classes to work meetings, Zoom is easy to use and navigate.  You can use Zoom to share video and audio on almost any device, whether it’s a Windows or a Mac computer, an iPhone, or an Android.  Meetings are secure, giving you end-to-end encryption and password protection to make sure your meeting is private.

How to Access

You don’t need a Zoom account to access a Zoom meeting as a participant.  This can be particularly helpful in allowing you to videoconference with multiple people without everyone needing to download the same software.  To host a meeting, however, you do need a Zoom account.  The easiest way to do this is to download the Zoom app for your device, then create an account.  Then you can schedule meetings and invite participants via email or text.

Special Features

  • Video chat with up to 1000 participants
  • Record the meeting
  • Share your screen with the other people
  • Use virtual backgrounds or fun filters

Cost

Zoom has a free option that limits group meetings with 3 or more people to only 40 minutes.  However, there is a Pro option that costs $14.99 per month and doesn’t limit the time allotted to group meetings. Learn more at zoom.com.

FaceTime

FaceTime is automatically installed on all Apple devices, allowing you to make calls via Wi-Fi or your cellular network.  It allows you to video conference with up to 32 users at a time, which should be more than enough for your average family holiday get-together.  However, it’s not available on Android or non-Apple devices, so it is somewhat limited.

How to Access

You can access FaceTime through the FaceTime app on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer.  FaceTime allows you to switch between audio and video calls whenever you like.  It also allows you to start a group FaceTime with multiple people by pressing the FaceTime button in a group chat in iMessage.

Special Features

  • Record video calls
  • Switch video calls between devices in the middle of a call
  • Take live photos
  • Make a call using Siri or Apple TV
  • Use fun filters or “memojis”

Cost

FaceTime is free and there is no paid version of the app. Access it on your iPhone or iPad.

Skype

Skype is a much older video conferencing tool than Zoom or FaceTime, but it has definitely kept up with the times.  Skype comes with Microsoft Office 365, so if you have the Office suite installed, then you already have access to it for free.  The best part about Skype is that it integrates with Outlook to show you all of your contacts so that you can easily call them.  When it comes to keeping in touch with the family for the holidays, Skype is a nice alternative to Zoom (if you’re looking to avoid paying to get rid of Zoom’s 40-minute time limit).

How to Access

To make a call using Skype, you have to download the app from their website and set up your contacts.  Skype integrates with Outlook, which automatically incorporates your contacts from that system into the app.  Skype is fairly easy to use, as the app comes with text prompts that explain to you how to navigate the app and set up a call.  Skype also allows you to call people who don’t have Skype via invitation, similar to Zoom.  

Special Features

  • Video conference with up to 250 users
  • Share your screen
  • Record the meeting
  • Share files up to 300 MB
  • Use live subtitles

Cost

There are two types of Skype: Skype for Business and regular Skype.  While Skype for Business costs $2 per month, the regular version of Skype is free for calling other Skype users.  If you want to call mobile phones or landlines using Skype, you have to pay $2.99 per month for calls made within the US and Canada.  It costs $7.99 to call within North America, and $13.99 per month to call anywhere in the world. Learn more at skype.com.

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is Google’s video conferencing solution that’s intuitive and easy to use.  Most people already have a Google account, which makes it easy to set up and sign in.  You can use Google Hangouts on both Mac and Windows operating systems, although it works best with a Google Chrome browser.  If you’re looking for an unlimited time limit and you’re okay with the 25 person limit, Google Hangouts is a decent choice for video calls.

How to Access

To access Google Hangouts, you’ll have to download and install the Hangouts plugin for your web browser.  Then you can open Hangouts from your Google homepage and make a video call.  To invite people to the call, click “Invite People” and type in your contact names from your Google contacts list.  Google also allows you to copy the link to share it with people outside of the list.

Special Features

  • Video conferencing with up to 25 people
  • Screen sharing
  • Share photos, videos, etc.
  • Automatic screen focus
  • Intelligent muting

Cost

Google Hangouts is free and there is no paid version of the app. Learn more at meet.google.com.

Whatever option you choose to keep in touch with family, we hope you stay safe and have a very happy holidays! Please keep us in mind for all of your home health care needs and contact us any time by filling out our Contact Us form or calling our numbers in the New York City area.