We’re all making a conscious effort to stay indoors and practise social distancing, but this means visiting family and friends has to be put on hold. Staying in touch by phone is great, but using video call services like FaceTime, WhatsApp, Google Duo and Skype can help you feel that little bit closer. Even better, these calls are routed over the internet rather than mobile networks, so they don’t come out of your calls allowance – but you will need a wifi network or 4G connection. The best bit? you can make video calls from tablets, too, which is ideal if you prefer looking at a bigger screen. Here’s everything you need to know about making video calls.
How to make a FaceTime Call
If you’ve got an iPhone, iPad or Mac computer you can use Apple’s FaceTime service to make video calls to other iPhones, iPads and Macs. To use FaceTime, go to “Settings” on your iPhone or iPad, scroll down and tap “FaceTime”. Make sure the slider next to FaceTime is set to on.
Now return to the home screen and tap the “FaceTime” icon. Tap the + button in the top right-hand corner, followed by the name of the contact you want to call. If they have FaceTime set up, their name will blue; if not, it will be greyed out. Choose whether you want to make an audio or video call, and the call will begin.
You can make group calls with up to 32 people, too. Either select multiple contacts when you start the call or, during the call, press the + in the top right-hand corner, then search for the contact you want to invite and tap “Add to Facetime Call”.
What if you don’t have an Apple device?
Unfortunately, FaceTime doesn’t work if one of you has an Android smartphone or tablet, or a Windows laptop or tablet. To video call between Android devices, or use either iPhones or iPads to call Android devices, you’ll need to use Google Duo or WhatsApp. If you want to make a video call to someone that has a Windows 10 tablet or laptop, you’ll need Skype (although Google Duo works in a browser), as this works with iPhones, iPads and Google Android devices. All of these services work in the same way as FaceTime, routing the call over the internet, so you’ll need to be connected to wifi or 4G.
How to make Google Duo video calls
Google Duo comes pre-installed on any Android smartphone or tablet that was released after 2016. If you don’t have it on your device already, you can install it for free from the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store for iPhones and iPads. It also works with the Google Nest Hub Max smart speaker, courtesy of its 10in touchscreen display, and on regular desktop computers running the Google Chrome Browser. You can download this for free.
On a mobile device, open the app and search for the contact you want to call. If they don’t have Duo already installed on their device, you can send an invite over text message to encourage them to install it. Tap the contact and then select voice call or video call, and the call will begin. You can speak to up to 32 people at once on a group video call by tapping “Create Group” when you open Duo, and adding contacts.
How to make WhatsApp video calls
WhatsApp is the world’s most popular messaging application. Now used by more than two billion people, it offers a video calling service for both iPhones and Android smartphones (it doesn’t work on tablets, and although you can send text messages at Whatsapp.com you can’t make video calls through a browser). To make a one-on-one video call, open the app and select the contact you want to have a video call with. From the top right-hand corner, press the camera icon and the call will begin.
You can also make group video calls with WhatsApp. Tap the “Add Participant” icon (an image of a person with a + icon) from the top-right corner of the video call. Select one of your WhatsApp contacts and, if they answer, they’ll join the conversation. All participants will be able to see each other.
WhatsApp calls can also be made using Facebook Portal. This is a smart display that sits in your home and, as well as allowing video calling, acts as a digital photo frame for your favourite pictures. It comes with Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant built in, with which you can control your smart home devices, set timers and get weather reports.
GHI TIP: Whatsapp calls can host up to eight participants at a time. If you want more people on your video chat, try using Facebook’s Messenger Rooms, which can accommodate up to 50. You just need to create a room and share the link to invite people into it. They don’t need to have a Facebook account to join.
How to make Skype video calls
Windows tablets and laptops, which should only be running Windows 10 as older versions are no longer supported by Microsoft, come with Skype already installed. If you don’t have Skype, download it from the app store for free. Skype is also available for Apple iPads and iPhones, Android devices and Mac computers.
Open the app and sign in with your Skype details, if you don’t have an account already follow the steps on screen to create one. From the top of the screen, swipe across until you reach “People”, where you’ll find a list of all of your contacts that are using Skype. You need to connect with them on Skype before you can call them. Once you’ve connected, simply press the contact and then choose from voice or video call.
How to make Zoom video calls
When the world went into lockdown in 2020, Zoom suddenly caught everyone’s attention. Many businesses had set up their staff with Zoom accounts so they could continue working together remotely – and, as business users want to keep in touch with friends and family as much as anyone else, it’s not surprising that Zoom quickly took off for personal calls, online classes, web-based gym sessions and more.
One-on-one video calls are free, and can last up to 24-hours apiece. Group calls, with between three and 100 people, are capped at 40 minutes unless you upgrade to a paid account, which starts at £11.99 a month.
To use it, you’ll need to sign up for a Zoom account, providing your date of birth and an email address. Once your account has been created, download the Zoom software for your computer or install the smartphone versions from the Android and Apple app stores.
If you’re using a computer, launch the software and click New Meeting, followed by ‘Join with computer audio’. When the meeting begins, you’ll be the only participant, so press ctrl and i (or command and i on a Mac), then click the Invite button at the bottom of the sidebar that appears. In the window that pops up, click Copy Invite Link, then paste the web address that this saves to your clipboard into an email or messaging app to share it with friends and family.
If you’re using a mobile device, similarly use the New Meeting button to get started, then tap Participants on the top toolbar, followed by the Invite button that appears at the bottom of the panel that drops down. Tap Copy Invite Link and, as you would on a PC or Mac, paste it into an email or messaging app to share it with friends.
What about Google Meet?
Google has two video-calling apps, Google Duo (which comes pre-installed on Android smartphones) and Google Meet. Initially only available to anyone that paid to use G Suite (Google’s rival to Microsoft Office aimed at businesses), Google launched a free version at the start of May 2020. This free app can support calls with up to 100 people (the limit is 250 on the paid-for version) and can be used on smartphones and tablets (although you will need to download the app for Android or Apple devices yourself), as well computers using a web browser. You can even start Google Meet calls straight from Gmail. Calls are limited to 60 minutes when using the free version.
Unlike Google Duo, there are no filters and effects that can be added to faces during the call, but it does offer the ability to share your screen and record the call, which makes it better suited to work meetings or even quizzes.
How to look and sound your best on a video call
- Check the camera and microphone before starting a call. On a smartphone or tablet, make sure the video-calling app you’re using has permission to access your microphone and camera. To do this on an iPhone or iPad, head to Settings and tap Privacy, followed by the name of the app you need to use. Use the slider to allow access to the camera and mic. On an Android device, open Settings and choose Privacy, then tap ‘Permission manager’ followed by Camera or Microphone. If the app you want to use is in the Denied section of either of these, tap its name, followed by either ‘Ask every time’ or ‘Allow only while using the app’. If you’re using a computer, look for Audio and Video in the Settings menu to test the camera and microphone.
- Having light from a window or lamp behind you makes it harder for the caller to see you, so sit facing the light source if you can – and remember, natural light is the most flattering!
- Pick somewhere to sit where the person you’re talking to will see a plain, uncluttered background behind you (sitting in front of a wall is ideal). If this isn’t possible, some apps, including Skype, have an option to blur out the background (go to Settings, followed by Audio and Video, then choose Background effect).
- Choose a quiet location. If you’re in a group call, mute your microphone when other people are talking so noise at your end doesn’t interrupt the conversation.
- Place the camera at eye level so you’re not looking down. Not only is this more comfortable, but it can help to avoid a double chin or a clear view up your nostrils.
- If you’re talking for any length of time, try to look straight at the camera and not at the other people on the screen. This will make the people you’re talking to think you’re looking straight at them.
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