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.
- 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).
- Minimum download / upload speed: 300kbps
So, technically our connection should be enough and I am a bit surprised by Hangouts fairly high bandwidth requirements.
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.
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).
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).