The best webcam tools for catching up with loved ones

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In the 21st century, the internet’s biggest gift to the world has been allowing family and friends to stay in more frequent contact – no matter where in the world they might be.

Thanks to email technology, people need no longer keep track of multiple addresses in order to get in touch with someone. And as a result of webcams, catching up “face to face” has never been easier too.

If you regularly video call family and friends, it can be easy to stick to software you know. But there are plenty of options out there – make sure you scour the market to find the tool that works best for you.

Using your webcam to catch up on the web

One of the world’s most popular tools for catching up online is Skype. First released in 2003, this application incorporates voice calls, video calls and instant messaging. So if your friends and relatives are signed into their Skype accounts too, you can chat, talk and see them in just a few clicks. Integrated webcams in laptops and monitors have made video calls on Skype very popular, but there are other alternatives too. Oovoo and UberConference, for instance, are popular with businesses arranging video conference calls on the internet. But if you’re planning a large family video chat online, one of these clients may be better suited to your multi-person needs than Skype.

Never one to be outdone by its competitors, Google+ Hangouts is one of the newer video chat options on the web. Launched in May 2013, Hangouts is similar to Skype in that it enables messaging, video and voice chats. However, its emphasis is on group conversations, rather than one-on-ones. So if you’re organising a family get-together, or simply want to be able to send a message to all your children, grandchildren or siblings at once, this is a great solution – especially if you all already have Google accounts.

Alternatively, Facebook fans should experiment with Facebook Video Calling. If you’re connected to your family members and friends on Facebook, you just need to click the call button on their profile to start your video chat. This is a great way to get in touch with that elusive child who won’t reply to texts or phone calls but seems permanently glued to Facebook. However, the drawback is that you can only call one person at a time.

Video chatting with your smartphone camera

Though camera phones have been around for a while, smartphone apps have made video chats possible. The great thing about video chatting on your smartphone is that you don’t just get to see the face of the loved one you’re chatting too – you can show them what’s around you too. So if you’ve just walked up a hill or mountain, for instance, you can video call friends and family to share the view with them.

Both Skype and Google Hangouts are available for smartphones, and iPhone users can use Facetime to video chat with each other too. But remember, if you don’t have unlimited data or you’re not connected to Wi-Fi, video streaming could really hit hard when you get your next mobile phone bill.

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