The best video conferencing apps to celebrate Christmas & New Year

The best video conferencing apps to celebrate Christmas & New Year

As we approach the end of 2020, what is certain is the fact that Christmas and New Year celebrations will be unlike anything we have ever experienced in our lifetimes. As the pandemic rages on, and with social distancing norms still in place, the safest way to get together and 'meet' friends and family is by going online. In this article, we take a look at the best video conferencing apps that you can use to get in touch with your loved ones.

Now, we are aware of the fact that you already know some of the tools we will suggest in this list. But we have added a few 'not so popular' ones as well. Besides, the point of this article, however, is to do a comparative analysis of these apps and to suggest the best video conferencing apps that suits you the best.

Without any further delay, let's get right down to business, shall we?

Google Meet

NextPIT Google Meet
Google Meet, in my opinion, is the best videoconferencing solution to celebrate Christmas or New Year remotely / © NextPit

Rating

Bewertung Design und Handling

Pros

  • Intuitive G-Suite integration
  • Easy to use
  • Free
  • No time limit
 

Cons

  • Not appealing to anti-GAFAs
  • Maximum of 10 persons per room

The first entry into this list and my personal in this list is, well, Google Meet. Call me out for being biased but this is my de-facto choice for video calls simply because it is the tool that I use the most. The biggest advantage of Meet is its simplicity. Most of us operate under the Google ecosystem with at least a Gmail account (or more!).

The Meet app is integrated with G-Suite and lets you join meetings via a web link that you can access on your laptop, mobile app, or even a regular data connection. If your business uses G-Suite, just like NextPit, you can generate this link directly via a Google Calendar invitation.

Granted, I use it mostly for work, but that didn't stop us from having a drunken escape game night with the editorial staff (and cheating using screen sharing). 

Google has also made a commitment to make Meet free for all G-Suite users until March 31, 2021. On a desktop machine, there is no software or application that is required to be installed beforehand. All you need to do is to have a Google account, create a chat room, and generate a sharing link before sending it to recipients of your choice. All they have to do after that is to click on the said link in order to access the meeting room.

Meet also exists as a PWA and even works on a Huawei smartphone without Google services. I used it on the Huawei Mate 40 Pro with the Quick Apps feature, which allows installing PWAs as a widget directly on your home screen.

A living room can accommodate up to 25 people and display up to 10 people simultaneously. Unlike the free version of Zoom, Meet doesn't place a time limit on your conversations. If you already use Google services like Gmail or Calendar, integrating appointments through Meet and sending them to your contacts is really intuitive. 

Personally, I linked my Google Calendar to my Slack account (a collaborative work tool). Hence, I receive a notification from Google Calendar 10 minutes before the meeting, with a redirect link to the Meet chat room. This is the most practical solution in my opinion.

Jitsi Meet: Celebrating a "data-friendly" New Year's Eve

NextPIT Jitsi Meet
Jitsi Meet is a good idea to spend Christmas or New Year's Eve while protecting your data privacy / © NextPit

Rating

Bewertung Design und Handling

Pros

  • Good data privacy protection
  • Default encryption
  • Free
  • "Raise your hand" to speak option
  • No time limit
  • No account required
 

Cons

  • It will take some convincing for others to adopt it

Jitsi Meet is an open-source videoconferencing app, the main selling point of which (the software is free, don't worry) is this: it does not belong to GAFAM (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft). There is no need for an account and encryption already there by default, Jitsi Meet is much more protective of your personal data and privacy. The service also works on smartphones and tablets via an app, or on a computer in a simple web browser.

Much less widespread and known than other services, it will probably take a little bit more persuasion than usual to get it adopted by your loved ones. But the service is very comprehensive and feature-rich. For instance, you can choose to toggle the participants to be shown as a mosaic by clicking on the button that looks like four squares, share your screen, access a chat, or even "Raise your hand", to indicate that you want to talk without interrupting the others.  

You can also blur the background, share a YouTube video that will be integrated directly into the video conversation, broadcast live on YouTube, or even record your entire video meeting. And at the very least, you'll escape the sprawling clutches of web giants who are hungry for your personal data. This is one software that not only snubs globalisation, but it does it with professionalism and style!

 

Marco Polo

NextPIT Marco Polo
Marco Polo is the perfect solution to wish your loved ones whom you hate a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year / © NextPit

Rating

Bewertung Design und Handling

Pros

  • Doesn't sell your data
  • Free to use and is ad-free
  • No video size limit
 

Cons

  • Requires a phone number
  • Videos stored on the cloud
  • Does not support live video calls

We all have at least one super crazy grandparent or a cousin whom we haven't seen in 10 years. Or a former colleague, an office mate, to whom we send a WhatsApp message every three months knowing that we will inevitably lose sight of each other.

On a more serious note, sometimes we don't necessarily have the desire, the time nor the opportunity to spend the entire New Year's Eve in a video call with someone. But for the fact that you have to show presence in order to look good, you force yourself a little to send a message to that particular someone. "Hi, I hope everything is going well since we last talked. We need to get back in touch." How about a video message? 

Certainly, you can do this with WhatsApp quite easily. But the file size limit should not exceed 16MB on all devices, or anywhere from 90 seconds to three minutes, depending on the recording quality. With Marco Polo, there is no size limit imposed. 

Marco Polo allows you to send video messages to people or discussion groups to which your contacts can easily reply. Unlike Snapchat, Marco Polo records all video messages so you can review your conversations and there is no time limit to worry about here. You can also add fun voice filters and effects for a dash of laughter.

But the application claims to be respectful of your data by declaring not to sell anything to third parties. The app is completely free and is without ads. You have filters and effects to modify your voice and your appearance to project the funniest version of you. In short, it is the perfect tool to not feel guilty and to provide news to a loved one without any form of commitment. 

Google Duo, WhatsApp, and Messenger for an evening with friends

I know, I know, there are far more "hype up" and popular applications currently in use by Zoomers, such as Houseparty for instance (which I advise against using and will talk about it more below). But for my weekend chillout sessions via screens with my group of friends, I would stick to tried-and-true classics like WhatsApp or Google Duo. 

Google Duo, the native solution on an Android smartphone

NextPIT Google Duo
Google Meet, in my opinion, is the best videoconferencing solution to celebrate Christmas or New Year remotely with friends / © NextPit

Rating

Bewertung Design und Handling

Pros

  • Free
  • Installed by default on Android devices
  • Available on iOS
  • No time limit
  • End-to-end encryption
 

Cons

  • Conversations limited to 12 people
  • Phone number required

Like Gmail, Google Maps, or Chrome, Google Duo is one of the applications that Android manufacturers must install if they want to use the Google Play Store on their devices. Unless you own a recent Huawei (post-Mate 30), every Android smartphone has Google Duo pre-installed, which is the overwhelming majority of devices in the world. 

In order to make a voice call, all you have to do is to enter the phone number or choose the person(s) of your choice from among your contact list. Recently, Google Duo can accommodate up to 12 people in the same chat room simultaneously.

We are far from the 32 participants that Facetime brings together, which is its equivalent on iOS. But since this application only works on Apple devices, I prefer Google Duo which is a whole lot more inclusive.

It really is the easiest solution to make video calls with on a smartphone. You don't have to install any apps. But Duo is logically not pre-installed on iOS. However, the app is available for free on the App Store. 

WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger

NextPIT WhatsApp
WhatsApp and Messenger are hugely popular / © NextPit

Rating

Bewertung Design und Handling

Pros

  • Free (WhatsApp and Messenger)
  • No time limit
  • End-to-end encryption (WhatsApp only)
  • Maximum of 50 persons in a call (Messenger)
 

Cons

  • You need to have a Facebook/Instagram account (Messenger) 
  • Phone number required (WhatsApp)
  • Maximum of 8 persons (WhatsApp)
  • A 6 person cap displayed on the screen (Messenger)

These are surely the two applications on this list that I really don't need to share with you, and both are owned by Facebook. WhatsApp is one of the most widely used secure messaging services on the planet.

It is too limited for professional use but is more than enough for calls in small groups. In order to register and use it, a phone number is enough. Its video conferencing function allows you to communicate with a maximum of four people and is only available on smartphones and tablets, and not on computers.

Personally, I'm going to spend Christmas alone in Berlin in my 15 square meters of living space and it's on WhatsApp that I'm going to enjoy a Christmas dinner in a video without any fuss or pretension with my sister, who lives in France.

Messenger is another Facebook-owned video conferencing app. It is less secure (conversations are not automatically encrypted), but it does not impose the same limitations for video calls, which can bring together up to eight people and functions on smartphones, tablets, as well as computers.

The only constraint, and not the least, is that unlike WhatsApp, your loved ones must have an active Facebook account in order to connect to the service. It is no longer possible, since the end of 2019, to register for Messenger only with a phone number. If you've closed your Facebook account, I am not sure it's worth recreating or reactivating your account.  

Houseparty: THE videoconferencing app to avoid 

Houseparty is a video chat application that we hear a lot about during the lockdown. You would most probably have seen it in a a list of the "best videoconferencing apps" that have been popping up all over the place online ever since governments worldwide ordered their citizens to stay at home.  

Using the app is very simple. It allows you to chat by video, has virtual rooms that can accommodate up to 8 people. The particular selling point of Houseparty is this: friends of friends can come and join in on your video conversations. You can obviously make your room private, so as to exclude uninvited people. Houseparty also offers a fairly small range of built-in mini-games that can be launched via the service (a Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, etc.).

But a simple glance at the privacy policy of the application, and you will quickly recoil in horror at the type of data collected. If the requested access to your contacts had not already made up your mind, the application will retrieve your IP address, the IMEI number of your device, your mobile operator, the list goes on. The big picture is this: your name, location, gender, and also photos are up for grabs. This is a whole load of sensitive information that can then be cross-checked for nefarious purposes.

But the cherry on top of this cake is this: you would have given permission to Houseparty "to use the content of all conversations held via the service, including any idea, invention, concept, technique or know-how for any reason such as the development, design and/or marketing of a product or service."

In closing, forget about conversation encryption, and say hello to the archiving (video and audio, therefore) of all your conversations for commercial purposes. Stay away from this app like it is the plague. 

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6 comments

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  • storm 4 weeks ago Link to comment

    Back in the 90s before the Endless September, we used a corporate video meeting tool across an early WAN.

    I've not used such a thing since, there's just been no need.


  • R-HUB HD video conferencing servers is another very good video conferencing app which you can add in the above list for telecommuting. It is an on premise solution which allows 30 way HD video conferencing plus works on all platforms.


  • Zoom is the best app


  • With Zoom, ordinary phone users can dial-in and join groups as voice-only. This is important to us, where we have people who are not on the internet and don't have smartphones.


  • At my job we do a lot of email, but we also have a lot of meetings. Email functionality is fair at the moment due to the higher volume of emails due to the shelter in place order. I have been teleworking for a month now with at least another month to go. We are now getting approved tools to use for conducting virtual meetings that can handle the number of participants and allow for decent screen sharing. One company we work with uses Skype for business. The way we conduct business is changing to accommodate the number of remote workers.


  • storm 9 months ago Link to comment

    So glad that email is more than sufficient for my needs. Asynchronous, at my convenience, self-documenting.

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