Skype is such a big part of our daily lives that it’s become synonymous with free online voice calling, just as Google has with online searches and WhatsApp with messaging. But it can also be a cumbersome piece of software, hogging more system resources than you think it should and not working all that well on mobile platforms, so it’s good to be open to alternatives.
Here’s our hand-picked list of the best Skype alternatives, showing that there is a world outside Microsoft’s popular VOIP program.
Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS
Offering variously priced packages depending on whether you’re a personal, business or enterprise user, Wire is a high-security voice, video and text chat app that’s available on all major platforms. The Personal version is free, and the company prides itself on security, offering end-to-end encryption via Proteus and DTLS and SRTP for voice calls.
When it comes to interface and usability, the fact that many of Wire’s employees, including its founder, used to work for Skype really shines through. It’s extremely easy to use, and video and voice calls generally work without issue.
You don’t need to enter personal details to use Wire either, making it great for privacy-conscious users.
Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS
Not quite as popular as Skype, but with 800 million users chatting to its tune nonetheless, Viber is the next best thing for many people. It uses up much less bandwidth than Skype (about 250kb per minute of voice calls), and you can technically have a group chat with up to 250 people (which sounds like chaos to me, but to each their own).
While Skype may be more feature-packed and offer better video quality, Viber’s offerings actually work better than Skype for the most part. Of course, you’ll need to persuade your friends to make the switch if you’re to get the most out of it!
3. Google Hangouts
Compatibility: Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, Android, iOS
Hangouts may have been largely shunned on mobile platforms by Google in favor of its more intuitive, more contemporary successor, Google Duo, but if you want to make video calls on your computer without downloading any cumbersome programs, it remains a great option.
If you have Chrome, you just need to go to hangouts.google.com, then choose who you want to call – via voice or video – from your Google contacts, and you’re good to go. You’ll need a Hangouts plugin if you’re using Safari or Internet Explorer (which you shouldn’t be using at this point). Sadly, you won’t be able to use Hangouts in Firefox any more because the browser no longer supports traditional plugins.
Compatibility: macOS, iOS
Non-Apple owners have nothing to see here, but if you do own one of the fruity-themed devices, then you’ll get to indulge in the minimal slickness that is FaceTime.
The speed of connections, the quality of videos, and the coherent interface make FaceTime a superior alternative to Skype that’s exclusive to users of Apple devices. There are no frills here, no big, silly animated emojis, just very functional calling. On mobile devices you can even use FaceTime to make regular phone calls via WiFi if you’re in an area with a poor cellular signal.
Compatibility: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
Lesser known than the other big hitters on this list, ooVoo is a relatively new kid on the block, offering video and voice calling for its users. The company’s in-house SuperClear technology delivers call quality that helps it compete with Skype (if not quite match up to it … yet). The interface also feels a bit “2002,” but maybe some people consider that to be retro now.
An added perk of ooVoo is its new Chains feature which lets you link multiple videos to create so-called ‘stories’ that give you a nicely-presented tapestry of the video chats you have with certain people. You can then share these or simply cherish them as memories. It’s a great touch, and it alone makes this app worth checking out.
Compatibility: Web browsers, iOS
If you’re looking for a web-based Skype alternative but aren’t a fan of the whole Big Brotherly Google ecosystem and don’t want to use Hangouts, you should try Talky. It can be used with any web browser and doesn’t require any plugins.
It’s remarkably simple – you just go to the Talky.io homepage, create a URL/name for your chat room, then click “Start a chat” and share the URL with your pals. You can set up passwords so not just anyone can wander on in, and business users can also add bespoke features for collaboration, screen sharing and so on with the help of Talky’s engineers.
Before We Hang Up …
It’s very easy to get used to using a specific program for specific purposes which is why so many people default to Skype. But remember that if it doesn’t work for you, then it’s really not that hard to change it. Just make sure to get your friends onboard as well because you don’t want to end up talking into the void!
This article was first published in Jul 2017 and was updated in June 2019.