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We recently moved to the other side of the planet and face the problem of limited bandwidth internet service at a time when we want to use video chat on a daily basis. It's not totally unusable, but we get a max. of 2.3 Mbit/s (2300 kbit/s ~ 290 kB/s) download over only 0.53 Mbit/s (530 kbit/s ~ 70 kB/s) upload speed. (These are average values, but it doesn't get a lot better than this.)

We have been using FaceTime, Skype and Hangouts - in this order of user experience and performance. I'll quickly draw out our pros/cons below:

FaceTime usually does a good enough job with the occasional drop-outs, but I believe it's a better experience on our side than for the people on the other end (due to our limited upload I assume). It has actually improved over the last months, though. The main drawback is the limitation to Apple devices.

Skype provides a similar experience, but the video quality is not as good and often doesn't even connect at all. It's also available for every platform, but it seems people started using it less and less - I barely see half of our friends online anymore.

Hangouts is something I would like to use a lot more, but the quality simply makes it unusable. The image constantly freezes or shows extreme artefacts - it seems their encoding really isn't doing a good job. The really strange thing about this is that it worked better for the other side than us. They could see us pretty clearly, but not the other way around, which is really strange when looking at our internet speed.

Skype recommends for video calling:

  • Minimum download / upload speed: 128kbps
  • Recommended download / upload speed: 300kbps
  • HD download / upload speed: 400kbps to 500kbps

I couldn't find an official recommendation for FaceTime, but the forums say 500kbps should be just fine (apparently, as it works for us).

Hangouts recommends for video calling:

  • Minimum download / upload speed: 300kbps

So, technically our connection should be enough and I am a bit surprised by Hangouts fairly high bandwidth requirements.

Question:

What I am looking for are recommendations under the given conditions for video chat software that works as easily and broadly as Hangouts, but performs as well as FaceTime.

Requirements:

It should ideally work on mobile platforms as well as on the desktop. If there is a native app, even better, but it needs to work on Android and iOS somehow (ideally it should also be available for Mac OS X and optionally Linux in one way or another).

Note:

I would actually be interested to learn more about the technical argument for / against any of the available options for our situation. I am uncertain if a direct connection (e.g. Peer-to-Peer / WebRTC) should work better than a server hosted solution (e.g. Cisco WebEx, Skype, etc).

  • As a Web app (hosted by someone else, I assume) and/or as a tool for installation? If the latter, for which operating system(s)? – unor Apr 18 '16 at 23:59
  • I am looking for whatever works best. The given examples appear to perform very differently under the given circumstances, probably partly depending on the robustness of their implementation. Regarding OS: I'll update the question. – Chris Apr 19 '16 at 0:46
  • Could it be the problem with hangouts is your hardware rather than connection? Maybe it's not good enough for the codec they use. – Tanath Apr 25 '16 at 17:27
  • Maybe ... if their implementation for iOS isn't up to Google's usual standards, but I doubt that. The iPhone 6S should be capable enough I assume. – Chris Apr 25 '16 at 22:55
2

It might be worth taking a look at Cisco WebEx - which often doesn't show up in searches for Video Chat as it is an on-line meeting & conferencing solution which includes Video Conferencing.

  • On PC/Mac it works in browser in most browsers, chrome needs a plug-in installed.
  • Various plans including free which is limited to 3 total participants, i.e. 3 Computers/Mobiles in a single meeting.
  • Mobile Apps including iOS, Windows Mobile 8, Blackberry & Android, with video obviously data charges apply if connected via 3G/4G but works on WiFi as well
  • Video Conferencing including mobile, split screen, etc.

Obviously, since the solution is aimed at businesses there is a lot of the documentation that is not relevant to personal use but I have found it surprisingly easy to actually use.

  • Yes, I used it at work a few years back, but forgot about it and we only ever used it for phone conference and desktop sharing - I'll have to try it out! – Chris Apr 19 '16 at 7:23
1

You can try my web application SignalRTC, it's completely web based video chat, using WebRTC and works on Chrome and FireFox. And it has hosted Andriod App.

  • looks very useful indeed - I'll try to see if I can get it to work under iOS as well – Chris Apr 25 '16 at 0:40

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