Tango is effectively the “bare bones” choice for video calling. Alone out of all of the apps discussed here, it has no options for VoIP to standard phone numbers. You can only call other Tango users.
Tango also strips out group video calling, and even IM via text. The only choices are video calling, voice calling, and “video messages” (sort of like a form of video email, in that the other party doesn’t need to be present to get the message).
This app’s simplicity gives it a much less mercenary feel than you get from most of its competitors. Lacking some of the higher end features, Tango isn’t constantly upselling you on “premium” memberships, credits, and recurring fees.
It does offer a few small premium options — to send cartoons or to expand your video message inbox, for instance — but they’re hardly necessary for enjoying the app or for using its basic features.
Qik is different from most of these other apps in that it’s not primarily a video chat application. It can do that, true, but its focus lies elsewhere. The main purpose of Qik is broad dissemination of video.
The app is chiefly designed to let you record and upload your videos to Qik servers, or to sync them to your desktop. Qik also boasts about the ability to stream live video, and to upload or stream through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
Unfortunately, however, there are some big drawbacks. For one, Qik’s self-proclaimed compatibility is quite dodgy. Not only is there no desktop client, Qik is also limited in its support for Android devices. T-Mobile users need not apply for the regular app. (Qik is only available on T-Mo as the carrier’s branded “T-Mobile Video Chat” service, and then only for an added fee.)
Qik also lacks support entirely for many popular Android devices, including the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Motorola XOOM, Motorola Droid Bionic, and Motorola Photon. Also, it doesn’t support any devices which don’t have a built-in cellular internet connection, such as the Samsung Galaxy Player 5.
Worse, even if your device is listed as compatible, there’s no guarantee that Qik will work correctly. On the Samsung Stratosphere which is my personal phone, an attempt to record and upload even a few seconds of video was met with inexplicable and total failure. Someone else might have a different experience. However, I for one don’t want an app that I can’t use.
Last on the list is Paltalk. Like Qik, it attempts to distinguish itself with an individual spin. In addition to featuring basic video calling, Paltalk heavily emphasizes a number of video “chat rooms,” where you can log in, talk with others, and share your camera’s video if you want.
Unfortunately, as you might expect, I wouldn’t exactly call that much of a selling point. Mixing the anonymous intellectual vapidity of Internet chat rooms with showing your face to strangers seems only likely to appeal to socially starved agoraphobics.
The rest of Paltalk’s features don’t compensate. Its UI is nothing special. Paltalk fails to keep settings after you’ve chosen them, and you could wait forever trying to log in to the service. Like Qik, Paltalk strikes me as a gimmick which isn’t well backed up by solid features.
As in any field where lots of contenders are trying to make names for themselves, video chat apps are fraught with hits and misses. All in all, it’s clear why Skype continues to dominate the market.
However, ooVoo does make a compelling alternative for those who want something equally full-featured. Meanwhile, you can get even lower rates for VoIP calls with Fring, if you can put up with the UI. I would definitely give a healthy recommendation to Tango, which offers a nice, easy-to-use video chat app and doesn’t keep trying to shake more money out of you. But you should skip Qik and Paltalk, at least until the bugs are worked out and the feature sets get better balanced.
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