Shelter-in-Place: Part 1 – Video Calling Apps


It was on March 12th that our world seemingly changed overnight. The US and Canada closed their borders and, for most, spring vacation plans became extended in-home routines of socially distant walks and video-calls. Social isolation is the new normal, so, in this article, we’re looking at the basics of popular video calling systems to keep you connected while staying safe.


Free Video Calling Options

The use of video calling has blown up since guidance came out to stay in your home. Prior to COVID19, most people were already familiar with Apple’s out-of-the-box video calling app, Facetime, and maybe a few other popular applications like SkypeWhatsApp or Google Hangouts. Each of these are simple to use: Add contacts, select a contact to call, the app rings the contact’s device and answering is just a user-friendly touch of a button. Each of these free apps is great for the average daily user, so choosing which to use is more about which is most preferred among your social circles and less about features and functions. One exception is that Facetime is only available on Apple iOS devices, whereas the others can be freely downloaded from any app store on any device. If you’re trying to stay connected with someone who’s not an iPhone or iPad user, try speaking with them to find out which of these other applications they prefer to use.



What is new over these past few weeks, however, is a mass shift to the paid, professional-grade application, Zoom, even for personal calling. Maybe it’s because kids are becoming more familiar with Zoom as it gets adopted for distance learning programs, or that professional users are now at home with idle $250/yr licenses, or that Zoom is designed for a very simple and professional group-call experience that’s perfect for speaking with multiple contacts in the same session? It’s well built, very stable, easy to use, and it’s gaining momentum with each day the shelter-in-place guidelines continue. One downside is that the app doesn’t ring directly to your contact’s device like its consumer-grade counterparts – it’s designed more for pre-scheduling calls rather than spontaneous chats and has really nice plug-ins for Google and Outlook Calendars to create a one-click schedule & invite process. The invitations then include a shared web link that each participant will click to join the call at the scheduled time. Still very easy, but certainly adds a couple of steps over the free apps.

One extra benefit? Zoom is compliant to US, Canadian & EU standards for protecting personal medical information and each call can be individually password encrypted, making Zoom the ideal calling program for any sensitive calls with healthcare professionals.



In the end, any of these applications will work just fine for your everyday needs. The most important thing is to speak with your loved ones and agree on which application is most preferred.

Stay healthy and safe, everyone. And – most importantly – stay home!

If you’re looking for more technologies to keep you or your loved ones safe and independent at home, make sure to check out for the latest reviews on all types of assistive technologies!

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