You don’t need an iPhone to get some FaceTime. These Android alternatives do everything that Apple’s video chat app can—and more.
If you’re not an iPhone owner, but still want to get in on the smartphone action, that’s totally okay! There are plenty of great Android phones. That said, Apple’s experience in mobile software gives the company the edge in a number of areas, and video chatting is one of them. FaceTime, iOS’s native video app, is a solid program that has been polished to a shine, and it’s quickly becoming a generic verb like Xerox. You don’t video chat someone, you FaceTime them. With an Android phone, though, you can’t. So what, in this ongoing social-distancing era, can Android users do?
That’s what’s great about the open marketplace of ideas that is the Google Play store. If you need an Android alternative to FaceTime, you have not one, but several, to choose from. We took the leading candidates for a test drive to compare them with each other, taking into account price, reliability, restrictions, and features.
Developers are constantly improving the experience, too, so you can expect the apps in this feature to see new services and better stability the longer they’re offered. While it’s easy to just stick with Hangouts, there’s certainly a lot to be gained from experimenting with other Android FaceTime alternatives, depending on what friends, family, and co-workers are using. We unreservedly recommend the six apps on this list. For more full-featured tools for businesses, you should check out our roundup of the best video conferencing software.
Google Hangouts (for Android)
The out-of-the-box alternative to FaceTime isn’t all that bad. Hangouts is Google’s service for both real-time text chat and video. One of the best things about it is that it’s massively cross-platform and linked to your Google ID. Not only does Hangouts work great on every Android phone, you can take it to your desktop—even your Mac desktop. Hangouts replaced Google Talk as the native chat app within Gmail (and Google+, but let’s not talk about that) a few years back, and the team has refined it a lot since then.
A cool about Hangouts is that it works beyond simple person-to-person connections. The platform supports multiple-person conversations for up to 10 people. Google also offers a mobile version for iOS. One advantage that Hangouts has over FaceTime is its data latency management. Apple recommends using FaceTime while connected to a wireless internet connection; Hangouts handles standard cellular data rates much better. In addition, voice calls to other Hangouts users are completely free.
If you own an Android phone, you should also have a Google account—it’s the key to all of the company’s many services, including Hangouts. Keeping your address book in order lets you merge all of your message streams into one easy-to-follow feed.
From video game powerhouse Epic Games, Houseparty lets you and a handful of friends set up online video chat rooms that are nearly just as fun as visiting folks in their real homes. Although each room is relatively small, you can swap between an endless number of rooms to keep the party going. Useful notifications let you know whenever someone is ready to chill.
Several smart design decisions make Houseparty more entertaining than your standard video conferencing app. Minigames, such as card games and trivia, give virtual guests something to do. Silly backgrounds deliver laughs (and tasteful advertisements). Fortnite players can even use the app as a convenient way to chat with squad mates. If Houseparty is good enough for celebrity virtual concerts, it’s good enough for you.
Skype (for Android)
When you think about video chat services, Skype is the gray-haired grandfather that still manages to hang on. First released in 2003, the system shared a back end with music-sharing system Kazaa (remember music-sharing systems?). It grew steadily until 2011, when it was acquired by Microsoft to replace Windows Live Messenger. Obviously, that makes it the default messaging client for Windows phones, but the Android versions are quite solid.
Early versions of Skype for Android weren’t well-integrated with your mobile device’s address book, making adding contacts a chore. In 2014, the 5.0 update finally brought it into harmony with the Android ecosystem, letting it access your existing contents. This simple change rocketed Skype into the upper echelon of Android video chat services.
Skype’s video chat services work in a variety of bandwidth situations, and keeps a constant monitor of a call’s quality. You are able to score the call afterwards, and depending on what hardware you are using to make the video call, the video can be transmitted in HD.
Basic Skype accounts are free and give you unlimited, one-on-one video chat across any supported platform. Skype used to charge a subscription fee for multi-user video chats, but now group chats are included in the basic service. It still charges for calls to phone users outside the Skype service, either by the minute or a monthly subscription.