This week we are looking at the tools you can use for free video calling. Skype has become synonymous with video calling, but is it the best option? In this review, we pit Skype against a newer programme called Zoom. At a first glance, it seems like just another video calling programme, but when we started using it, we realised that it’s actually quite different (and better) than Skype. The main focus of this review will be on Zoom, and we will be using Skype as the baseline to compare it to.
What you need:
- A laptop, tablet or mobile. We tested Zoom on an iPad and a laptop to see what the differences were (available for iOS and Android).
- A webcam and microphone. Most newer devices have these built in, but some older ones don’t, so you might have to buy a separate webcam and microphone.
- Wifi/internet connection
- Zoom account (to set up an account click here)
- The main pro, when compared to Skype is that it consistently works. Everyone has had the experience of being on a Skype call and it being glitchy or cutting out, or the sound going (often during the most crucial parts of the conversation). However, with Zoom, it worked every time, even when calling differing numbers of people and across different distances.
- Each meeting has a unique ID number, which can be used to send an invitation to the participants. There is also an option to schedule meetings, which can be saved on your calendars. This is a far cry from Skype where emails have to be sent in advance and callers end up hanging around waiting for someone to remember their password or connect to the internet.
- There are many options within the call, including the ability to either leave or end the call. During the call, one person is designated a ‘host’ which gives them enhanced options (the host can change within the same call if desired).
- There is a gallery view which allows you to efficiently see more than one person people on the same screen.
- There is an option to raise your hand! This brings up a small cartoon hand at the bottom of everyone’s screen, indicating that you wish to speak. This is a brilliant feature that brings a sense of civility to the proceedings and is a polite way to manage conversations without interrupting or speaking over other callers.
- There is an option to share screens. When we started looking at sharing screens we realised that there was an option to share control of the screen. This means that two (or more) people can both edit the same text, similar to Google Docs. However, where this departs from Google Docs is the ability to still see and talk to each other while editing, making this a truly collaborative experience.
- Another function was a shared whiteboard where you can jot down ideas while you are chatting.
- You are able to record conversations and video calls. If you have been recording, the call is automatically saved to your drive. This gives you an audio file, as well as a compressed and a high-quality video file. If you do not want to be filmed during your conversation, there is the option to forbid recording.
- We thought long and hard about what the cons of Zoom could be, and the best that we came up with is that Zoom is not as ubiquitous as Skype and therefore all your contacts are unlikely to have it already installed on their computer. However, signing up to and downloading Zoom is very quick and painless, and an option to do this is included in any meeting invitations that you send out.
We love Zoom. Not only did it work exactly how it should as video calling software, we also discovered the amazing feature of sharing content and sharing the control of editing, allowing for collaborative remote working. Zoom combines all the best features of using a collaborative programme (like Google Docs) and Skype, with added stability and a more intuitive user interface.
It is clear that the design of Zoom was based on the actual needs of the present user (such as the ‘raising hand’ option) rather than Skype whose features are nearly identical to when it was first launched. Considering how long Skype has existed, and how widely used it is, we assumed that there would have been a resolution of most of the early problems, but what we realised is that the quality of the service provided by Skype was far worse than we anticipated.
- Price – 4/5 (there is a free option, but for calls with more than 3 people that last more than 40 mins, you need a paid account)
- Ease of use – 5/5
- Efficiency – 5/5
- Effectiveness – 5/5