Not all phones/tablets have front facing cameras. However, for the ones that do, video calling/chatting is an exciting feature. However, although the technology has been around for years, video calling/chatting is a resource intensive process. Although many apps claim to provide users with optimal video calling/chatting functionality, in reality most apps/services do not have the necessary infrastructure in place to support high-quality video calling/chatting. This article weeds through the plethora of video calling/chatting apps on Android Market and highlights the best ones.
(Take note many/all video calling apps have voice calling features as well. However, this article is dedicated to discussing video calling and as such will focus only on the video calling features of apps. Best free VoIP/voice calling apps will be discussed in a future article.)
Table of Contents
App Name: Tango Voice & Video Calls
Download Size: 4.8 MB
Version Reviewed: v1.6.10456
Requires: Android 2.1 and up
- Provides the ability to make video calls over 3G, 4G, and WiFi.
- Seamlessly integrates with phone.
- Very good quality of calls.
- In addition to video calling, provides voice calling services.
- Works with phones and tablets.
- Does not have a desktop client — only allows for calls between Android and iOS phones/tablets.
- Requires users to register with their phone number.
- No group/conference calls.
- Cannot be installed in SD card (doesn’t support app2sd).
As the name implies Tango Voice & Video Calls – or just Tango for short – provides users with the ability to make free video calls (and voice calls) over 3G, 4G, and WiFi. Tango is cross-platform, so Android users can call Android and/or iOS users.
Tango seamlessly integrates with phones (and tablets), always staying on (there is no logging in/out) ready to receive – or make – calls; and automatically finding which of your contacts are using Tango. In fact Tango is so smoothly integrated with your phone/tablet that adding contacts to Tango is done by adding contacts to your phone. Once you add a contact to your phone (like you normally would), Tango analyzes the number and adds the contact to your Tango list if they also use Tango.
The downside of being seamlessly integrated, however, is
- Tango requires users to register with their phone number. (You are also asked to enter your first name, last name, and e-mail address but these three fields are optional.) If you don’t want to register using your phone number, you won’t be able to use Tango. (See Skype if this is the case for you.)
- Tango cannot be installed on the SD card; app2SD is not supported.
On the bright side, although it is “always on”, I didn’t notice any significant drain in battery life (when it is idle — Tango uses battery, of course, when you are making calls).
Tango works with most Android smartphones and tablets, with the Tango team quickly adding support for new devices as they are released; and the quality of Tango video calls are very good, or at least as good as video calls are on smartphones/tablets at this current moment in time. (Call quality will vary depending on connection speeds; I am talking in general.)
That said, the biggest drawback to Tango is the fact that there is no desktop client: Tango users can only call Android and iOS phones/tablets. If you plan on using Tango to talk with friends or family who use a computer, you are better off using Skype. (I use Skype over Tango for this precise reason.) In defense of the Tango team, they do claim to be working on a Windows version of Tango but there is no ETA on when that will be available.
Overall, it is Tango’s extensive support for Android smartphones and tablets and high-quality calls that earn it the crown of best free video call/chat app.
App Name: Skype
Download Size: 9.8 MB
Version Reviewed: v126.96.36.199
Requires: Android 2.1 and up
Skype is the official Android app for the famous VoIP service Skype. (I bet you couldn’t guess that one.) Like Tango, Skype supports both voice and video calls over 3G, 4G, and WiFi. Skype instant messaging is also supported. Skype is cross-platform and users can call people on any supported platform (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.)
Unlike Tango which more or less becomes “part” of your device, Skype is more of the traditional login-logout messenger-like app. You login/logout of Skype (you need a free Skype account — first name, last name, e-mail address, country, language, Skype name, and Skype password required; entering phone number is an option but not required) as you desire and you add/remove Skype contacts (contacts are not associated with your phone contacts, although you do have the option to search your phone contacts to look for Skype contacts). When you are logged into Skype you will receive Skype calls (or instant messages) but when you are not logged in, you obviously will not; you are allowed to always be logged in if you desire — just don’t logout if this is the case. (Skype supports app2SD – it can be installed on SD card.)
I am not trying to make Skype’s approach (login-logout) sound better or worse than Tango’s approach (seamless integration); I just want to highlight that they are different. Different does not equal bad. Some people may find Tango’s approach superior, while others may prefer the ability to control when they are online (logged in) and when they are not (logged out) with Skype. This is not a matter of which approach is better, but rather just a matter of having choice. I personally like Skype’s approach.
During my tests, and personal experience, I find Skype’s video calling quality to be top-notch; as good as, if not better than, Tango. (Call quality will vary depending on connection speeds; I am talking in general.) It isn’t call quality that differentiates these two products in my book: Both have very good call quality. Rather, there are two make-or-break aspects that, at the time of this writing, differentiate these two apps.
The first aspect is Android device support. The Skype team has been painfully slow in supporting Android devices. Sure they support a good number of devices, but they don’t support all devices. Tango has far better support for Android devices. For example, Skype won’t use the front facing camera on my friend’s Samsung Galaxy S 4G; Skype claims only Android 2.3 and higher devices work with front facing cameras for video calls but Tango uses the front facing camera on the Froyo Samsung Galaxy S 4G just fine. Simply put, Tango mops the floor with Skype when it comes to Android device support. (And this is the main reason why Tango is the best free video call app for Android and Skype is runner up.)
The second aspect is cross-platform support. Both Skype and Tango support multiple platforms, yes, but Skype supports a lot more platforms than Tango. Tango, at the time of this writing, is for Android and iOS only. Skype, on the other hand, works on Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows, Mac, Linux, Symbian, and more. If you want to chat with friends and family who use computers as opposed to Android/iOS devices, Skype is going to be your first choice for video calling app because of its extensive cross-platform support. (This is the main reason why I personally use Skype.)
To sum up, since its inception on Android Skype has been a have-have not app. First it was exclusive to Verizon Wireless devices; then when it became available to all Android users, calling over 3G in the USA was disabled. Now Skype is open to all (calling over 3G in USA has been enabled) but Android device support is sporadic. Nonetheless, Skype does provide very good quality calls, so if you have a device that Skype properly supports and/or you want to talk to friends and family who don’t own Android/iOS devices, Skype is a viable option for free video calling. I would know: I use it.
- fring Group Video Calls, Chat
- Qik Video Connect
- Yahoo Messenger [Supports video calls]
- gTalk [Supports video calls for some devices only; Android 2.3 and higher]