Microsoft’s Skype has ruled video conferencing for over a decade, but the king of virtual chat might soon be dethroned. Its challenger is Google’s Hangouts.
Released less than a year ago, Hangouts is already making a name for itself in the world of free video conferencing. It even has some Skype devotees wondering if they should make the switch.
If you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur that uses video conferencing, or you’re considering doing so, you need to read on. We’ll compare the attributes of both services and then ask you which one you’re most likely to take advantage of the next time you’re conferencing online.
Round One: The 411 on Group Video Chatting
With Skype, one-on-one video conferencing is free. The user can add up to 9 people (making 10 people total) for a group video chat, however one group member must subscribe to Skype Premium. In the U.S., a Skype Premium annual subscription is $4.99 per month, or $7.49 per month for a three month subscription. Although you have to pay a bit for it, it’s worth noting that a Skype Premium account also gets you group screen sharing, live chat customer support and unlimited calls to the country/region of your choice.
Hangouts also allows video chats with up to 10 participants, but unlike Skype there’s no charge. Hangouts On Air lets you broadcast your conversation to an unlimited number of people, but only 10 can engage in it. Hangouts On Air also lets you stream live to your YouTube channel or to your website.
Round Two: Supported Platforms
As you’d imagine, Skype supports a huge host of platforms, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari browsers and the Mac OS X, Windows, Windows Vista, Windows XP and Ubuntu operating systems.
Just like Skype, Hangouts also supports an array of platforms, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari browsers and the Mac OS X, Windows, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Ubuntu and Chrome operating systems.
Round Three: Domestic and International calls
If you’re making a call to another Skype user, your call is free. However to make a Skype-to-phone call, you’ll need a Skype subscription. A subscription for a U.S. or Canada caller is $2.99 per month, or users can take advantage of a pay as you go plan that costs 2.3 cents per minute.
Skype-to-Skype international calls won’t cost you a penny, but Skype’s Unlimited World plan will set you back $13.99 per month. The good news is you’ll get unlimited calls to landlines and mobile phone in eight countries, and unlimited calls to “landlines only” in dozens of other countries around the globe.
To make or receive phone calls with Hangouts you need a Google Voice number and you’ll have to have Google Hangouts enabled. Calls to the U.S. and Canada are free. As a Hangout user, you can make an international call to another Hangout user at no charge. If you want to make an international landline or mobile call using Google Voice, you’ll have to pay for it. Rates vary according to country you’re calling from and calling to.
Round Four: Ease of use
Skype requires you to install its program, and every time you want to make a call, you’ll need to launch Skype. That’s not only a bit of a hassle, it can create a problem if you need to use a friend or coworker’s device that doesn’t already have Skype installed.
Unlike Skype, Google Hangouts doesn’t require you to install a program. All you need to do to start using Hangouts is install a Web browser plugin. Once you do, you can call from Gmail or Google+ no matter whose device you’re using.
Round Five: Screen Sharing
Business owners and those who collaborate with colleagues online often find screen sharing to be a useful tool. Skype offers screen sharing, but you have to establish the video call first. With Skype Premium, you can screen share with a group of up to 10 people.
Hangouts also offers screen sharing, but it differs from Skype in that it allows you to create a chat room to test your screen before adding members to your video conference. In fact, screen sharing in Hangouts is a cinch. You simply click the Screenshare tab and select the screen you want others to see.
Now that you’ve been schooled on the basics of Skype and Hangouts, which video conferencing service do you think is best for your business? Cast your vote below.
From developing websites to processing payroll, Alexia knows firsthand the demands entrepreneurs face. She’s owned several small businesses and won an international competition for a business plan she wrote. When she’s not hard at work in the office, she’s watching old movies or crafting with her two daughters.