Several video chat apps are making big changes in order to help families hold virtual holiday gatherings this year. Zoom, for instance, will lift its call time limit for free users on Thanksgiving Day. Free Zoom meetings are normally restricted to just 40 minutes, but calls can last as long as you want from 4 p.m. November 27 to 10 p.m. November 28 AEDT.
Zoom isn’t the only app making changes for the holidays. Back in September, Google extended call lengths to a full 24 hours for free Meet users. You can enjoy a ton of talking time until March 31, 2021; after that, who knows where we’ll be pandemic-wise.
Most recently, Microsoft Teams rolled out changes so its free users can hold 24-hour-long meetings with up to 300 participants. You can join Teams meetings even if you don’t have the app or a Microsoft account, so this new unlimited call time could make Teams the best option for holding Thanksgiving dinners over video call — and any other December holidays you’re celebrating, too.
That said, Teams, Zoom, and Meet are not not the only free video chat options. Plenty of apps allow unlimited calls with large groups — many of which you probably already use. However, the exact number of participants will differ, and some require participants to download software or create an account before they can join a call.
Here’s the full list of our favourites:
- Microsoft Teams: 24 hour-long calls with up to 300 participants. Only the host needs a Teams account; guests can open a meeting link from any device without installing the Teams app or needing a Microsoft account to join.
- Zoom: Usually 40 minutes per meeting, but unlimited on November 26. Meetings can be joined from the web without the app or a Zoom account.
- Google Meet: 24-hour meeting length (until March 31, 2021, then drops to 60 minutes). Free calls support 100 participants, but require a Google account to join.
- Facebook Messenger: Unlimited call length with up to 50 users, but requires the Messenger app or desktop client and a Messenger/Facebook account to join.
- Facetime: Unlimited call length with up to 32 participants, but the app is only available on iOS, Mac, or iPad devices.
- WhatsApp: Unlimited call time for group of up to 8 users, but requires the WhatsApp app.
- Houseparty: Unlimited video chat time for up to 8 people. You’ll need the Houseparty app, but this might be the only way to get Fortnite-obsessed teens in your house to join a virtual family gathering this year.
You can also check out what the smaller or more niche group chatting apps like Discord, Webex, 8×8, and more offer free users on this handy webpage. We can also help you find the simplest video chat apps for people who struggle with tech — though Teams will probably do the trick, too. And for those who prioritise data security, check our list of video chat apps with the best privacy and encryption features.