Whether you’re chatting with your parents, friends, or boyfriend, long-distance relationships have been made easier with chat programs that allow voice and video communication. Skype seems to have taken the lead in the industry, but there are other chatting and video streaming programs that are just as good, if not better. One program that is proving more and more competitive can be accessed through your Gmail account, Google Voice.
Quality: Skype has a high rate of dropped calls and difficulty in reconnecting these calls. It’s also not uncommon for the video to freeze or to lag behind the sound. On the plus side, a fuzzy image might make you look better on a bad day.
Price: Skype is relatively cheap when calling international landlines, but the costs run high when calling international mobile numbers. If you’re not careful, the $14 minimum upload to your Skype credit can run out quickly.
Popularity: With over 500 million accounts in use, the majority of your friends probably have Skype. Calling fellow users is free, which will lower the cost of your Skype usage.
Mobility: Thanks to Skype applications available for iPhones and BlackBerrys, many people can download Skype on their smartphones.
The Multi-Task Factor: When video chatting, the window will remain open and in sight on your screen while browsing other programs. This allows you to keep your interlocutor in sight while checking out perezhilton.com.
Texting: Sending texts through Skype is simple and relatively cheap. Skype charges you per 120 characters and shows you how much each text costs as you are texting.
Quality: Constant streaming with no interruption. The images are clear and there are rarely connection problems.
Price: Until 2011, people can use Google Voice for free when making calls anywhere in the U.S. and Canada, to landlines and mobiles alike. This actually makes it worth it to turn on your computer and sign into your Gmail account instead of using your mobile.
Popularity: Although Gmail has about 176 million users monthly, not everyone uses Google Voice. On top of that, using the video feature requires an extra download.
Mobility: Although less publicized, phone applications for Google Voice are just as readily available as Skype apps. However, a smaller number of users makes downloading the Google Voice application less worthwhile.
Multi-Task Factor: When chatting you have to remain on the Gmail window to keep whoever you’re communicating with in sight. This makes browsing on the internet a game of shuffling around windows.
Texting: At this time, sending text messages through Google Voice is not possible while in Canada.
Skype. The quality of the video in Google Voice is significantly better than that of Skype, but until the number of Google Voice users increases Skype will be the program to use for long distance communication. However, just as Skype steadily replaced Microsoft Messenger, it’s very likely that Google Voice will replace Skype in the near future.