Columnists,Deshan Ilangakoon,Top Story l by Deshan Ilangakoon l 12 Oct 2020     - 24

App Review – The Best Options for Keeping in Touch


In today’s world, keeping in touch with the people you care about is not at all difficult. The actual difficulty is trying to figure out which is the best app to use. That’s why this article will take a look at the different apps that let you keep in touch with people from all around the world.

The need for these technologies was highlighted when COVID related lockdowns came into effect and people were forced to find easy convenient ways to stay connected. Some of the apps out there saw huge booms in the demand for them and other apps realized the need for offering more competitive features even on their free versions.

Taking all this into account, lets look at some of the most popular apps that are out there for people to use. We’ll take a look at Zoom, Google Meet, Skype and Cisco WebEx and Microsoft Teams. Of course, these aren’t the only apps, but these are by far the most popular, so we’ll take a look at these.

Skype

Source: Skype (www.skype.com)

This is an old staple and an app whose name is almost synonymous with web calls. For the longest time, this has been the go-to app for families and friends to connect with those who are living around the world and it is still a strong favorite for a lot of people. Skype, which is now owned by Microsoft has both a free and a paid version and quite a few complimentary features come when you get a Office 365 package (this is the license package that features Microsoft Word, Excel and Power Point, for those of you out there using cracked software).  

Skype’s free version offers features like call recording (limited), the ability to blur the background during calls and have group meetings with groups of up to 50 people without a call time limit. On top of this, you don’t even need to create an account or download the app. Skype allows you to create a unique meeting link which you can share and have a meeting with up to 50 people using their web client.

Skype also has the added benefit of allowing you to make calls directly to a phone, but unless the number is a Toll-Free number, you will have to buy credits to make the call. So, while this is a challenge, if you suddenly face the need to make a call to a US toll free number from Sri Lanka for customer support, Skype’s your app.

To top this all off, the fact that Skype is owned and run by Microsoft means that you get much more reliability and security on your calls and accounts as compared to some other smaller apps.

Cisco WebEx

Source: Cisco Webex (www.webex.com)

Another oldie in the web conference business is WebEx which is now owned by Cisco. Of course, this isn’t an app that people are familiar with unless they worked at a company that required frequent overseas calls. WebEx is most popular in the corporate arena for their web conferencing technology however, they have a free web conferencing app too.

The app allows for group calls for up to 50 minutes with features such as call recording and the other commonly available tool kits. One feature though that WebEx doesn’t seem to offer is the ability to put up a background in their free version.

Furthermore, given that this too is not a new player in the game of video conferencing, you have a better guarantee in terms of security and reliability of the app. WebEx also offers the ability to allow anyone to join a call without the need for an account. However, to set up a free call though, you will need to haven a WebEx account.

Google Meet


Source: Google Meet (meet.google.com)

This is a relatively new feature that Google has released and one that became freely available even more recently. Initially, to use this app you would have needed a paid G-Suit account, however more recently, Google has opened up this app and allows people using their free Gmail accounts to be able to enjoy most of the features of Google Meet.

Google Meet allows you to host meetings for up to 1 hour for a total of 100 participants and has quite a few interesting free features. One of the most interesting features is its “Noise Canceling” set up. It also has other options like the background feature. Google Meets also sync up your calls through your Google calendar so that you can easily plan and keep a track of your meetings.

Google’s size and extensive background in the web services arena also means that your meetings and accounts are relatively safe and secure. However, there is one drawback with Google Meet, which is that you are required to have a Gmail account in order to be able to connect to a call. Simply downloading the app or pressing a link will not give you access to a call.

Microsoft Teams


Source: Microsoft Teams (www.microsoft.com)

This is another new name in the game but a relatively old player in the web chat and web call market. Teams was also a more popular name in the corporate arena, but it wasn’t so popular among individuals until of late when they opened up the free versions of the app. Its predecessor was Skype for Business which Microsoft slowly killed off with the launch of Teams. However, its popularity isn’t as far reaching as yet since it wasn’t available for free public use until recently.

However, Teams does offer a great set of free tools and features that come inbuilt and available for use with the free version. Teams has also been ramping up its game in the free arena and in the licensed arena to take on other popular apps like Google Meet and Zoom. The free version does however limit a group meeting to only 20 people however, they don’t put any limits on the call duration like some of the other apps.

Microsoft’s size and expertise also means that this too is a stable and reliable app, especially since it has been a key player in the corporate sector for some time. The only drawback is that it requires a Microsoft account to be able to log in and use its services.

Zoom

Finally, we come to Zoom. This up and comer really saw a huge boom in its usage and accounts during the COVID lockdowns as it was one of the more readily and easily available free web conferencing apps that allowed for meetings of more that simply two parties.

However, Zoom's growth and popularity was not without a few hiccups along the way. With the huge grown in popularity, zoom also saw hacker take an interest in the app and unfortunately some bugs and vulnerabilities were spotted. Of course, since then, these have so far been fixed with their latest versions however, it still does pose the question of whether there are any more pending problems.

On top of this zoom also does place some limitations on its users. For one, group meetings are limited to 40 minutes however it does allow for groups of up to 100 people. Also, on the plus side, its one-on-one calls are unlimited. Furthermore, some of Zoom’s new features also mean that it has integrated with Google colander to allow people to set up and keep a track of meetings more conveniently.

What’s the Pick?

Taking into consideration all the features that these apps have officially told, it seems that for general calls and group calls, Skype would have to be the overall best pick. The only catch is that it is limited for group calls of up to 50 people only. So, if the need is for much larger group, you would have to pick between the call duration and the number of people you want to have and decide which app will work best for you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Deshan Ilangakoon

"A creative writer, photographer, traveler and cyber security professional, Deshan has worked with several local and international travel magazines and other sources, to publish stories and reviews of places, sights and experiences around Sri Lanka. He has a passion to share his experiences through stories and pictures of the wonders of Sri Lanka."

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