How to get unlimited free video calls this Christmas
Large gatherings are back on the cards for the first Christmas in three years, but you may not be able to meet everyone in person.
Whether it’s a friend who lives overseas or family members across the country, video calls are a great way to stay in touch during the holiday season.
There are plenty of services to choose from, but many limit you to 40 or 60 minutes per call unless you’re willing to pay. However, there are several ways to get unlimited calls for free – here are your options.
If you plan on having an extended call with 3 or more participants, Google Duo is your best bet. It supports up to 32 people for as long as you want – just sign in with a Google account. It’s available directly from the website, but also on iOS, Android, and through any Google smart speaker with display.
Most people forget about Skype these days, but it’s still a great option for group calls. Up to 50 people can register for an unlimited time, and registration is completely free. Apps are available for Windows, macOS, iOS and Android.
If everyone you call uses an Apple device, this is the best option. Apple finally added support for group video calls to FaceTime in 2018, and now you can have up to 32 participants on a call. The app comes pre-installed on any new iPhone, iPad or Mac, while you can even join in the audio via the Apple Watch.
Apple added the ability for Android and Windows devices to join FaceTime calls via web links in 2021, but an Apple user will still need to send the invite. It also looks clunky compared to the two services above, which are optimized for use on multiple platforms.
Google Meet has a 60 minute limit, but only for meetings with 3 or more participants. If it’s just you and one other person, you can continue for up to 24 hours. Again, anyone with a Google account can create or join meetings.
Google Meet works primarily via the web, but apps for iOS and Android are also available.
Teams has traditionally been focused on business users, but Microsoft launched a version for personal use in 2021. The limits here are similar to those of Google Meet: 60 minutes for calls from 3 to 300 participants, but 24 hours free for calls 1:1.
Anyron Copeman / Foundry
Everything is accessible in the Microsoft Teams for Home application, available for Windows, macOS. On iOS and Android, you can use the same familiar Teams app. It also works via the web.
Instant messaging apps
Apps like WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram and Snapchat all have video call functionality in mobile apps. WhatsApp Web and a Messenger desktop app mean they also work on desktop, but it’s not the most optimized experience.
As you can see, it’s easy to video call your friends and family without any limitations, completely free of charge. You’re spoiled for choice with 1:1 calling, but there are also plenty of options if you have more participants.
Zoom might be the first video call service you think of, but it’s not a good option for free calls.
The company is now imposing its 40-minute limit on all calls unless you subscribe – this was added to one-on-one meetings, which were previously exempt, in May 2022.
There is a workaround that lets you bypass the 40 minute zoom limit, but it’s not perfect.
However, it should be noted that only the host needs to subscribe to remove this limit. Plans start at $14.99/£11.99 per month or $149.90/£119.99 per year.
Zoom is available for Windows, macOS, iOS and Android.
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