A. cardinal rule applies here: You have to cater to the preferences of the least technically-inclined person in the group. Everybody else will wind up getting roped into providing tech support for that individual, so making things easier for him or she can only ease the work for the other people on the line.That alone may dictate your choice between the four major choices: Apple’s FaceTime App, Facebook’s Messenger, Google’s Hangouts and Microsoft’s Skype.
Otherwise, you have to evaluate what devices each app supports and how many it lets in on a video call.
Apple’s FaceTime for android places the most limits. The video-calling app that Apple introduced in 2010 remains confined to iOS devices and Macs, and it also only allows video calls to one other device.
Within those contexts, however, FaceTime generally works without complaint. The only issues I’ve observed involved a MacBook Air not detecting its own camera, a system-level failure for which the app deserves no blame.
Facebook Messenger, like FaceTime, only permits person-to-person video calls but does so on more devices. You can use the social network’s iOS and Android apps but also the Firefox, Chrome, and Opera browsers on a desktop or laptop computer.
But while Facebook now collects an amazing share of the world’s population–more than one billion people checked in from their phones alone in the last quarter–you’re likely to have at least one relative who isn’t on it.
None of these apps are set up for sharing one-way video with a larger group of friends–for instance, if you’re unwrapping presents in a time zone ahead of or behind potential viewers. For that, the easiest choice is the Live video streaming that Facebook has been promoting in an aggressive ad campaign.
You need an Android or iOS device to broadcast a live stream, but recipients can watch in both Facebook’s mobile apps and in a browser (Live no longer seems to require Adobe’s Flash plug-in in Safari). You can share a Live broadcast as you would any other post on Facebook: to friends, close friends, friends but not acquaintances, or the public.
Please tell me you’re not going to use that last option, okay?
First Published on www.usatoday.com