This morning I gave a talk on "Keeping in Touch with the Grandkids" at the Ann Arbor Senior Center at Burns Park. The focus of the program taught grandparents how to use various video chat apps to communicate with their children and grandchildren. This lesson can easily be applied to stay close with any family member or friend.
Let’s face it, we don’t always get to see our family and friends as often as we’d like. Busy schedules and geographical distances can keep us apart. However, recent advancements in video chatting have made it so anyone can see and talk to their loved ones from just about anywhere. There are so many different apps out there, and each one is a little different. Here are a few that I like:
Apple's FaceTime: This is the easiest of them all to use. You can access it on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. It works seamlessly with making and receiving calls on your iPhone, and you don't have to download anything. You can even video chat with multiple people (if your phone is running iOS 12 or later). The only problem with FaceTime is that it only works on Apple products. So no Windows, no Android.
Skype: One of the first on the market to offer video chat. It works across all platforms--iPhone, Android, Mac, Windows, etc. I don't, however, find Skype as easy to get set up. First, you need to create a Microsoft account (they own Skype). Then you have to make a Skype username. Anyone you want to contact also has to have a username. And, you need to know their username to ring them up. It's not as simple as calling someone's phone number. Oh, and that person needs to be signed into Skype in order for them to see your call.
WhatsApp: This is the most popular chatting app in the world. It became so common overseas due to the expense of sending text messages in other countries. In the U.S., most of our cellphone plans include texting and sending multimedia. What I really like about WhatsApp, though, is that it's easy to use, and it's ubiquitous overseas--perfect for communicating with friends and family when you're abroad, or they're abroad.
Amazon Alexa: When used in conjunction with an Echo Show, Alexa can become a video chat device. The Show is a small screen (my dad's is 8") that can sit on your shelf or counter. Go to the Alexa app on your phone and use the Drop-In feature to contact another person's Echo Show. The beauty of this product is that the person receiving the call doesn't have to do anything. For people like my dad, who live in assisted living and have trouble working a device like an iPhone or iPad, the Show automatically turns on the call. We dial up my dad and say "Hi." He sees us, and the video chat begins. No fuss, no muss.
Now the question becomes for so many of us, which one is right for me? There are a lot of different video chat apps out there. I've only touched on four. At Keen Focus Technology Tutoring, I help people research which ones are most appropriate. The answer almost always boils down to whichever one your family and friends have, and you find the easiest to use.