Staying Connected During COVID-19

Many states and counties have issued stay-at-home orders to limit the spread of the coronavirus, many people are turning to technology to keep them connected to friends and family.

Experts say voice and video chat services can help people deal with the sense of loneliness that may come with being isolated for an extended period. Most residents will be largely confined to their homes for more than two weeks.

Video chat apps in particular have increased in popularity as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads worldwide. They’re being used to arrange virtual dance parties and happy hours; connect people to play trivia or other games; or simply let friends and relatives see each others’ faces as they stay in touch.

Here are just a few of the apps and services that can help people in isolation remain connected through text, voice and video chats.

FaceTime: Apple’s videoconferencing app debuted in 2010 and has been available on every iPhone, iPad and Mac model since then, but it is not available on Android devices or PCs. Up to 32 people can participate in a group chat through the app.

Discord: A free voice, text and video chat app that is especially popular among gamers. The company says 56 million people use the service to send approximately 963 million messages each month. Discord runs is available for iOS, Android, Mac and PC.

Zoom: The videoconferencing app has quickly become a favorite among people in isolation amid the coronavirus threat, picking up scores of users in dozens of countries. The app has a reputation for reliability and is available on Apple and Android devices and any laptop, according to CNBC. Zoom offers free video calls lasting up to 40 minutes for up to 100 people.

Netflix Party: The browser extension is only available to Google Chrome users, but it lets Netflix users sync up TV shows and movies so they can watch together. The extension also includes a group chat function.

Messenger: Facebook’s free app is available to anyone with a Facebook account and offers text messaging, voice calls and video chat. Voice and video chat allow up to 50 participants at a time, although video chats will only show six people. It’s available on iOS, Android and web browsers.

Google Hangouts: Google has announced plans to phase out the app later this year, but it has become popular amid the coronavirus threat. The free service can be used to videoconference with up to 25 people. It can also be used to make free international calls, although not in every country. Hangouts is available on iOS, Android, and through a Google Chrome browser.

Skype: The app that is largely credited with popularizing video chat is still available, but Microsoft has not updated the app recently, according to USA Today. Still, Skype still offers free video calls for up to 50 people. Skype is available for iOS, Android, Mac and PC, among other platforms.

WhatsApp: The free app allows text chats for groups of up to 256 people, as well as voice calls and video chat. Up to four people can participate in a group video call. WhatsApp is available on iOS, Android, Mac and Windows.