Plenty to choose from
In recent years, the amount of people using peer-to-peer video chat to communicate has grown exponentially. Like most technological trends, the rise of Smartphones and Tablets has massively contributed to this. It is a common site in modern day Britain to see people walking down the street with their earphones in, speaking to someone face to face, who could be on the other side of the world. Chances are they will be using one of a handful of applications, namely; Facebook Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp, Snapchat or FaceTime if they happen to be an iPhone user. This list is not exhaustive, but most users in the Western world will most likely be using one of these applications. Users in Asia, Africa and the Middle East will more likely be using things like WeChat or Viber.
Around one year ago, Google released a new P2P video calling application called Duo. It seemed to stagnate until around two months ago when it was auto-downloaded onto some Android devices and was included in the latest Android update, called Oreo.
Over the years, I have used all the above-mentioned apps, apart from FaceTime, as I am proud to say that I have never owned, and never intend to own, an iPhone. But the two apps I am going to focus on, in addition to Duo are Facebook Messenger and Snapchat. I am going to write the pros and cons of each, then conclude which is my favourite.
Google Duo was released in August 2016. Many people questioned its purpose because of the existence of Google Hangouts, which had existed for some time. Although the two apps essentially do the same thing, the clues are in the names. Duo means two and Hangouts are more centred around group calling. It was launched as a direct competitor to FaceTime, using the user’s telephone numbers as a directory. It is not exclusive to Android, but it clearly part of Google’s new strategy of the self-branded product line, Pixel. Many are branding the Pixel Smartphone the ‘Android iPhone’ due to its simplistic design and
retina-burning white UI. They are trying to take market share from Apple and to appeal to Apple users they need to make their products as similar to Apple’s as possible.
Ease of Use – The User Interface is incredibly simple. You simply select audio or video chat and choose the contact which you want to ring.
Reliability and Quality – I have never experienced a problem with this application. The reliability of the calls is impeccable. Also, the quality of both voice and picture is very good, it never pixelates or freezes and it very rarely drops.
Screen Share – The latest update allows the ability to share the screen of your phone to the person at the other end of the call, this is a feature that will be increasingly useful.
Popularity – The app is scraping users, there are very few people using it and it is unlikely to grow unless Google formulates an idea to grow the user base.
Snapchat is a very popular application with over 100m users worldwide. On 1st May 2014, they introduced Video Calling. It hasn’t meant the most used feature and doesn’t compare to standard snaps, stories or maps, but it is still a widely used feature and will most likely be regularly used.
Lenses – Snapchat is known for introducing the lenses. The Dog Filter and the Face Swaps have had a noticeable cultural impact. These lenses can also be used during video calls. This can make things different and interesting when calling people.
Chat Integration – An annoying effect of any mainstream Video calling chat app, is that when users are
discussing a certain picture, for example, the need to switch between the video call and the chat box to see the pictures, but on Snapchat, the picture appears in a bubble for a few seconds.
Reliability – The reliability, or lack thereof, is a major drawback with Snapchat’s video calling. It regularly freezes and drops. This is something that needs to be sorted.
Accidental Calling – Due to the placement of the call button on Snapchat, you often tap the button when trying to write a message as the button is just above the keyboard.
In 2011, Facebook introduced a new application called Messenger. It was essentially a replacement for the ‘Inbox’ partition of the existing Facebook app. In Summer 2013, Facebook rolled out free Voice and Video calling in the messenger app. They are now the most widely used video calling app and due to their ever-increasing integration with WhatsApp, Instagram and the existing Facebook app (they’re all owned by Facebook), this only looks like its going to grow.
Directory – The directory uses Facebook. This means that you can find anyone in the world (providing they have a Facebook account) and call them directly. The profile pictures and names make it the most efficient and easy to use phone book in history.
Simplicity – The ease of use of this app is a major plus point. Much like Google Duo everything is very simple.
Privacy – There are two very important privacy concerns to consider. The first being that there have been reports of Facebook recording calls and selling the data to advertisers. If you were talking to a friend about buying a specific product, you may see targeted adverts on your Facebook. There is still a lot of speculation around this, but it isn’t a huge stretch of the imagination. The second privacy concern is that anybody in the world, providing that they have a Facebook account and a smartphone can phone anyone else, this opens a door to scammers, spammers, telemarketers and any other unwanted attention online.
After writing this article, I have chosen that my favourite application for video calling is Snapchat. This is because of the filters and ease of in call chat. If Snap invested more in the reliability of the calls, it would be a perfect video calling app.
I think Google Duo is a very good app, and if Google manages to find more users, it does show some promise, but unfortunately, at this point in time, its unpopularity is its biggest weakness.