Other Communication Apps
You may have a preference to a previous online platform that you are comfortable with, whether or not you have used Zoom. We will outline the most common apps used outside of Zoom here.
Apple's FaceTime is as synonymous to video calling as it gets. Officially released in 2011, FaceTime has continued to gain traction with users as the years go by. By following Apple's belief in a simple, user-first product, it remains a favorite with professionals and average users alike.
FaceTime allows users to video call any other FaceTime user at a touch of button. As long as you own an Apple device and have a phone number or Apple ID linked to that device, it is as simple as opening your contacts list on your iPhone, iPad, or MacBook and picking the person you want to call with FaceTime. There are no hidden settings that are essential to successfully holding a quality lesson, and with Apple products being very consistent in terms of hardware, the resulting video/audio quality is also very consistent. Group calls are also possible, but not to the extent of other online communication apps.
The only true disadvantage to FaceTime is its exclusivity. If you do not own an Apple device, you cannot use FaceTime. However, if you and your meeting participant are fortunate enough to own an Apple product, FaceTime is an easy to grasp, no nonsense platform for one-on-one online lessons.
As one of the first online voice communication apps available to the public, Skype remains a favorite app for many users. After formally being acquired by Apple's main competitor Microsoft in 2011, it has continually evolved over the years to include video calling and group meetings.
Skype's platform is similar to platforms that use a built-in contacts list like Zoom or FaceTime. You create an account, invite your colleagues to be contacts, and call them through your contact list. Much like Zoom, you can also invite participants through a link invite, even if the don't have a personal Skype account. More recently, Skype has also added the feature to Meet Now, allowing users to join meetings even without the app installed (similar to using Zoom's web browser or Google Hangouts/Meet). Deeper into the app, Skype offers many of the same value-adding features that Zoom offers such as audio/video source selection, screen sharing, and file sharing. Larger meetings of up to 250 are possible with a Skype for Business (now known as Microsoft Teams) subscription as well.
However, due to its age compared to the other online video communication apps, Skype can lack the dependability of its newer counterparts. Skype was initially a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) communication client that directly connected one user to another, much like a two-way radio. That functionality has since been removed and its core has been adapted to cloud-based services. Since newer apps were designed from the ground up with the cloud in mind, Skype is at a disadvantage of being re-engineered to fit modern cloud based servers.
Skype can be more prone to freezing up if your internet or hardware aren't up to par, whereas newer apps tend to manage hardware resources more efficiently, and dynamically adjust call quality to manage sudden degradation in internet speed/quality. Skype can also require more internet usage compared other apps due to its inherent inefficiency. For larger meetings such as classroom settings, these age-related pitfalls can take away from the meeting experience, but if you are primarily doing one-on-one calls and your internet and device are up to the task, Skype can still do what it was designed to do.
WhatsApp (and Facebook Messenger)
WhatsApp has been a very popular cross-platform messaging app since its release in 2009. Requiring a $1/year subscription fee, it has since become a completely free app shortly after its acquisition by Facebook in 2014.
WhatsApp features a relatively simple to use interface across all common devices, such as Windows/Mac computers, mobile devices, and even an in-browser platform known as WhatsApp Web. You create an account by linking WhatsApp with your cell phone number, and find other contacts using their cell phone numbers. Video calling within the app is also simple, and only involves selecting a contact from your WhatsApp contacts list, opening a chat with that contact, and selecting Video Call.
For being a very bare-bones and user-friendly app, you will not find any advanced features here that may benefit you in your video lessons. Group calls (as of July 2020) are limited to 8 people and can also be finicky depending on the internet connection of every participant. If you do not own a cellphone, creating a WhatsApp account may require extra steps to bypass its authentication by text/SMS message.
Facebook Messenger is included here with WhatsApp because they share the same core platform (due to the acquisition by Facebook as mentioned earlier). Rather than using your cell phone number, you can log in to Facebook Messenger using an existing Facebook account. Your contacts will be imported from your friends list. You used to be able to create a Messenger account without Facebook using the cell phone method that WhatsApp uses, but this feature has since been removed. Overall, the functionality and ease of use is very similar to WhatsApp, but the requirement of linking your personal Facebook account or creating a "professional" account may cause privacy and usability concerns among teachers, parents, and students.