Staying socially connected is key to a healthy and happy life. We may be going through a difficult time currently by having to isolate ourselves from the ones we love, but there are ways in which technology can help. Yes, we can phone, or send a text to our family and friends, but it’s much nicer if we can actually see them. As we age, staying connected to the outside world can be a challenge. Fortunately, there are some clever pieces of technology, websites, and apps which allow us to make video calls. But for anyone who isn’t quite as tech-savvy as they would like, it can be a little bit of a minefield and it can be difficult to know where to start.
Thankfully, keeping in touch is now easier than ever, but do you know your Skype from your FaceTime? Or your KOMP from your GrandPad? Take a look at our guide to easy video calling so you can stay in touch with your loved ones, wherever you are in the world.
What’s the best easy-to-use video calling technology?
If you like the idea of video calling your nearest and dearest but only have a mobile phone which resembles something from the dark ages, then it might be time to invest in some new technology. You don’t need anything too fancy, or high tech, and it doesn’t need to break the bank either. Here’s our pick of the best easy-to-use video calling gadgets for the tech-challenged:
1. The Facebook Portal
One of the most clever features of this photo frame-like piece of technology is that the camera pans and zooms around the room to follow the person you’re talking to. It’s often difficult to get whole faces on the screen when using other video calling devices, but this smart camera allows you to move and talk freely, while always staying in the frame. The camera automatically widens when someone enters the room too, so it keeps everyone in view. It also integrates its video call with Facebook-owned WhatsApp and the popular Facebook Messenger, so your family can easily call the Portal device from their phone.
Find out more about the Facebook Portal
Created especially for the elderly, the GrandPad by Acer, is a touchscreen tablet that is super-easy to use. It requires no tech skills, and it has a basic menu of large icons, and text to just the essential features. You can make and receive a video call with just one touch, and you can check news, and play games on it too. But to simplify usage and avoid confusion, it doesn’t offer web browsing.
This one-button communication device is designed to connect seniors with their family, friends, and loved ones across all generations. Smartphones and tablets aren’t for everyone, and some video calling apps can be very confusing to use. It can become harder to remember passwords and use touch screens as we get older, which can put many people off using them. KOMP features only one button, and there’s no complicated interface to navigate, meaning it’s easier to stay in touch, even for those who didn’t grow up with technology.
For a constant visual connection to family and friends, the ViewClix Smart Frame is a picture frame that’s always ready to receive a live video call. You can also view a high definition slideshow with your favourite family photos, and whenever a new picture is shared, this clever piece of kit receives an instant notification to download and display it. Seniors won’t need to learn new technology, and there’s no need to sign up for an account. And best of all, only authorised family and friends can call, meaning there’ll be no nuisance calls, unlike with your landline.
5. Amazon Echo Show
Video calling with this smart speaker is very easy to do as it’s voice-activated. This useful equipment includes Alexa, a helpful virtual assistant, who’s there to help when you need her. To start a video call, you simply need to say “Alexa, call Kevin”, and then you can turn off the video by saying “video off”, or by tapping the video button on the screen. Your contacts will just need to also have an Echo, or download the free Amazon Alexa app on their smartphone. You can also ask your new friend Alexa to play music, share a recipe, and even check who’s at the front door.
What are the best free video calling websites & apps?
If you’ve already got a decent smartphone, tablet, or laptop, then you’re almost ready to make your first video call. All you’re missing is the software to get started. Here are a few of the best video calling apps for you to download. And best of all, they’re free!
The original video calling app, Skype offers you everything you need if you’re looking to make video calls with friends and family. If you’re both using Skype then it’s totally free! Users only need to pay when using premium features like voicemail, texts, or making calls to a landline, or mobile phone outside of Skype. It can be used on your phone or tablet, but it’s best used on your laptop or desktop computer to make use of all the features. You can even have up to 25 people join in on the video call with you, perfect for getting the whole family together, or celebrating a birthday when you can’t be together.
If you’re an iPhone user then you can use FaceTime, which already comes pre-installed onto your phone. You’ll benefit from excellent video quality (between two Apple products, such as an iPhone, iPad, or Mac-book), and it works very much like regular phone calls, you just scroll through the contact list and connect. And unlike some other apps, you don’t have to have it running all the time to receive a video call.
If you have an Android (not by Apple) smartphone or tablet, then Google Duo is for you. Considered by many to be the best video chatting app for Android, it has a super-simple interface, making it easy to use. And you can invite seven others onto the call with you. Setting up your account is nice and simple, and then you’re ready to start making free video calls with your nearest and dearest. And a nice smart feature is it’s “Knock Knock” function, which gives a live preview of who’s calling before you even answer the phone. You can use it on your computer too if you prefer a bigger screen.
The simple interface and group messaging feature makes it the home of any family chat groups to keep in touch when you’re all in different places. WhatsApp’s video calling is easy, and free to use over wifi or your data. You can even connect it to your desktop computer too through the app or website. And for those who like to keep things private, chats are protected and cannot be intercepted by hackers.
More than two billion people around the world now use Facebook, so chances are, at least some of your closest friends and relatives do. In this easy-to-use app, you just search for a contact and then click the video camera button in the top-right of the screen. This is one of the simplest apps for video calls, so great if you’re not the most tech-savvy. It’s perfect for large get togethers as up to 50 people can join the same chat, and you can use it on pretty much any device (smartphone, laptop, tablet etc.)
Video calling is now an easy option for anyone wanting to stay in touch with their loved ones. It’s easier to use than text messaging or emails, and it’s much nicer to see a friendly face rather than just hear them over a phone call. You can enjoy a video call whatever your age, even if you find technology a little overwhelming. Whether you get yourself a new smart picture frame or tablet, or you download an app on to your current smartphone, there’s a wide variety of senior-friendly video calling tools for you to choose from, allowing you to see and speak to more people, more often, wherever you are in the world. And if you’re still unsure what to go for, you can always ask the grandchildren for help!