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The 5 best alternative free video chat apps

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal | May 31, 2013
No Facetime, Google Hangouts, or Skype? These third-party services pick up where the big-name chatting solutions leave off.

video chat

Regular phone calls are over—these days, it's all about video chatting. If you've got a smartphone, you're likely holding a video-chatting machine (in all its forward-facing 1.3 megapixel glory). And regardless of what OS your smartphone is running, it likely came with some built-in video chatting software.

But what if you want to, I don't know... call someone on a different platform? Or what if you need to chat with your entire rugby team at once? Facetime only works on iOS, and Google Hangouts only supports 10 chatters at one time. If you're facing a video chat crisis, never fear—third-party video chat apps are here to save the day. These five cross-platform apps bring extra functionality, such as group video chats, video messaging, free texting, and cheap voice calls, to the table.

ooVoo—iOS, Android
If Facebook is your main method of communication, you may want to check out ooVoo. A free video chat app for iOS and Android, ooVoo also has a desktop client for PCs and Macs and integrates with Facebook. ooVoo also lets you group chat with up to 11 friends at a time (12, including yourself), which is two more friends than Google Hangouts supports (10, including yourself), and has a more robust social network to boot.

The ooVoo app is simple and straightforward on both iOS and Android. When you first download it, you'll be prompted to create an ooVoo account or login with Facebook. At the top of the screen, there are three buttons for your three different contact lists: ooVoo contacts, Facebook contacts, and All contacts (which includes your address book). At the bottom, there are five navigation buttons: Contacts, Phone, History, IM, and Settings. Multi-friend-chatting aside (you only see four people on the screen at a time, so it's not too overwhelming), ooVoo is a full-featured app that also offers voice calling and instant messaging.

Voice calling between ooVoo contacts is free and unlimited, but if you want to call regular numbers (both cellphones and landlines), you'll have to cough up some cash for ooVoo credits. Credits work for calls to multiple countries (see a full list here), and rates start at around 1.8 cents per minute to the United States. Instant messaging is always free and works even when you're in the middle of a video call. Another neat ooVoo feature is the ability to upload an avatar photo and a status update, which your ooVoo friends will see in their contact lists.

Tango—iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7.5
Tango is one of the most popular third-party video chat apps, and it's not difficult to see why: It's incredibly simple to use. Getting started with Tango is a snap—you don't even have to enter a password, just your phone number (which is already populated), email address, and first name to create an account. Tango offers video chat, voice calls, and instant messaging, but only with other users who also have verified Tango accounts.


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