NEW YORK: Experts tried six popular apps that allow people to make calls using different conditions and in different kind of usage conditions. Result? They were surprised to find that the Google Hangouts was the best performer even though few people use it for VoIP calls. To know why experts reached this conclusion, read on…
While testing multiple VOIP apps we found the voice calling experience on Google’s Hangout app to be the best. Calls were clear, and we noticed the least amount of latency in the responses while using Hangouts. Hangouts, of course, is much more than just for voice calling as its marquee feature are video calls. Hangouts was incredibly competent – both on Wi-Fi and also on the sub-par 3G connectivity we get in Delhi NCR. The interface of Hangouts is pretty straight forward and the best bit is that it is preloaded on all Android smartphones. So, you don’t even need to download it if you are a user of an Android smartphone. The app is also available on iOS and can be downloaded for free; however, if you’re a Windows Phone user then you are out in the cold.
Viber is the quintessential internet voice calling app. The app made a name for itself by offering simple internet based voice calling to millions of users across multiple platforms including Android, iOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry. The app continues to offer the same functionality and the voice calling in our tests was quite robust. That said, we noticed quite a bit of latency even while using the app on a speedy Wi-Fi network, but certainly the experience was usable. Viber has branched out into other areas and offer features like public chats and instant messaging, but the voice calling capabilities of the app remains its calling card.
Skype is perhaps the oldest app on this list to offer voice calling capabilities. It leverages Microsoft’s unique peer-to-peer technology and it offers a sublime calling and video chat experience when the network is really good. If network is not good, then the experience is also not so good. Testing it on network in Delhi, we faced a lot of difficulties. Many times we could not connect a call and when we even managed to connect, the calls had very high latency, making conversation next to impossible. That being true, on a fast 8MBps Wi-Fi network we managed passable voice calls and video chats. The good news about Skype is that it available on iOS, Android and is baked into Windows Phone. In fact, in the coming months Skype on Windows Phone should offer a much enhance experience with the update to Windows 10. It is also worth noting that Skype also powers the video chat function built into Facebook’s Messenger’s app.
WeChat is considered to be the WhatsApp of China. Made by Chinese Internet giant TenCent, WeChat is one of the most comprehensive VoIP solutions in the market. It has tons of features and behaves like quasi-social network of sorts. Many features heralded in WeChat have become core functions on iOS. The walkie-talkie feature is a great example of this. While, it has a walkie-talkie function, WeChat also has a full-fledged voice calling feature, which is buried inside a mountain of user interface created in tacky chrome finish. We found that finding the voice calling feature itself is a little cumbersome, but once you have placed the call and the conversation is going, the quality is mostly decent. Note the use of word mostly because when the quality is not good it is really pathetic.
WhatsApp is a giant in terms of instant messaging, but when it comes down to voice calling, it is the newest kid on the block. It offers passable voice calling capabilities, but let’s is honest, it is a new feature and WhatsApp has still not mastered it. Calls drop abruptly, the audio is garbled and often the call doesn’t connect at all. Adding to its woes is this odd invite-call to get the voice dialling feature for Android users. Still, iOS users can’t get it, though there is talk that the feature is coming soon for them and Windows Phone users alike.
Line is yet another popular VoIP solution. It offers an integrated chat and voice calling function. That said, it asks to sync with all your contacts which makes for a slow experience in the case you want to make calls immediately. But once your address book is synced you can make calls to your Line friends pretty seamlessly. The call button is also clearly indicated on inside the chat menu so you can instantly switch between a chat and a Line call. The call quality, however, is patchy at best. It is decent when used with a speedy Wi-Fi network, but it is pretty much useless on a 3G network. Also, we noticed sometimes even if a call was going through the receiver was unable to pick up the call because the network was deemed to be unstable.
At the end of the day, the big takeaway is that all voice calling apps are heavily dependent on the quality of Internet on offer – be it Wi-Fi or 3G. If the speed is not good chances are that your internet calling experience is going to be unreliable. While this is true, we tested all the apps on the same network, and on the basis of that we can certainly say that Google’s Hangouts pulls ahead, followed by Viber and Skype. WhatsApp has some catching to do as far as audio quality is concerned. Likewise, WeChat and Line also need to improve the call quality and perhaps, also need to simplify the overall user experience.