For hundreds of years, people have been predicting that there would come a time when groups of people could communicate face to face even though they were thousands of miles apart in reality. The original – and very primitive – form of video calling was pioneered by AT&T as far back as 1927, but it has taken a lot of hard work and persistence to get to the present form of video calling. The time has come, the predictions have come true, and now with the help of a tablet, a smart phone, a desktop computer or a laptop, people can use specialized software to talk to others on video screens. Communication is not yet quite as seamless as the science-fiction writers predicted, since participants do have to be careful not to talk over each other, and there is often a brief delay between the speaker saying something and their listeners hearing it, but in general, there is an easy way to hold a meeting involving people all around the world without any of them having to leave home. Video conferencing is now a 3.5 billion dollar a year industry, and growing all the time.
There are dozens of different brands of video calling software to choose from. Some have more features than others, some have higher prices than others, and some function better than others, but they do all work on basically the same principles – they sync voice calls with video in several parallel streams, which allows several participants to both see and hear one another at the same time. The video screen is divided into as many sections as there are participants, and each video feed is linked to that caller’s audio feed.
One of the biggest complaints people have about low-quality video conferencing apps is the poorly done synchronization between video and audio feeds, as well as problems caused by two or more people speaking at once, which can overwhelm a poor-quality program and cause it to shut down until all participants have stopped talking. Lag time can also be a problem, especially if one or more participants are using a satellite internet connection, which requires more time for signal transmission than does a fiber optic or cable connection. Many of the lower-quality apps cannot compensate adequately for this lag time and may tend to freeze or create even longer spaces than are necessary in the conversation. All these things can make a video conference awkward and incoherent, which is why it is important to choose your software carefully.
There are many good examples of high-quality video conferencing software, with Skype For Business generally believed to be not only the most popular, but the most efficient as well. The company has been offering audio calls for many years, which gives it an extra boost in terms of name recognition. Customers already trusted Skype before the company started offering video conferencing services, so people who already knew how Skype operated were comfortable with accessing a new service from an old company. Skype offers excellent mobile apps, and it is relatively easy to use. The audio quality can be poor at times, leading to some customer complaints. You also have to make sure that you add each person you want to talk to to your contact list before you can contact them, which adds an extra step and can be a bit of a pain. Otherwise, Skype is ranked among the top 5 video conferencing apps pretty much everywhere, although others are catching up fast.
Another popular video conferencing app is Zoom. Users say it is easy and straightforward to download, and easy to use once you’ve got it. It has both Android and iOS platforms, making the mobile app available to everyone. Using the app is simple – it lets you open a room and invite others to join you in the room by just sending them the link to it. Audio quality is generally rated very high, although some users say it doesn’t have a really “professional” look to its video feed.
There are many other companies vying for a share of the video conferencing profits – far too many to mention here. In general, if you are looking to download an app to use for professional video conference calls, you need to do a bit of research before you start. There are apps where you don’t even have to open an account to make a short call, but your options will be severely limited until and unless you download the full version of the app. There are the usual number of companies that offer both a free version of the app and a paid version – they usually try very hard to make it difficult and confusing to download the free version but very simple to download the paid version. A few minutes looking up the top-rated video conferencing apps can save you a lot of hassle and aggravation.