So who are you seeing for Christmas? This should be a simple question that deserves a simple answer – but we’re living in the 21st Century, where life’s rich tapestry comes in many hues and textures. Sometimes there’s a clump of cat hair stuck in there too, and perhaps a broken charger lead or 2. […]

So who are you seeing for Christmas? This should be a simple question that deserves a simple answer – but we’re living in the 21st Century, where life’s rich tapestry comes in many hues and textures. Sometimes there’s a clump of cat hair stuck in there too, and perhaps a broken charger lead or 2.

Living abroad? Family living abroad? Step family? In a committed relationship? In a committed relationship with someone who has a step family? Let’s face it, short of replicating ourselves à la The Prestige it’s going to be nigh-on impossible to make all of our loved ones’ Christmas dreams come true.

Now, in an ideal world (heh), this would be where video chat rides in to save the day – but that would be inappropriately simple, wouldn’t it. Some of us have iPhones, and use them to FaceTime the heck out of other iPhoners. Some of us have Android phones and dream of the day when Apple to make good on their promise to make the reliable, intuitive video chat app available for them too. And what’s up with WhatsApp, are they allergic to video?

Whether you’re an iPhone owner who would love to reach across the divide to a Samsung-toting inamorata (omg Romeo and Juliet have nothing on you guys!), or rocking a Huawei and want to talk to 9 rellies at once – here are 8 ways for us all to put our OS preferences to one side and share the love this Christmas.

 

Google Duo

If you’re craving the simplicity of FaceTime’s one-to-one video calls, then this should be the first port of call for you and your chattees – if you’re both on mobile phones, that is, as it isn’t available for desktop computers.

It may already be installed on some Android phones – beyond useful if the prospect of talking your dad through downloading an app immediately empties your reserve of Yule spirit.

It also has a potentially confusing feature called Knock Knock, which shows the recipient a video preview of whoever’s calling before they choose to accept or decline the call (it can be switched off – best do this if you’re installing it for someone, eh).

Download for Android and iPhone/iPad (both free)

 

Google Hangouts

While we’re on a mighty Google tip, Hangouts is the better option if you want to bring all of your tribes together at Christmas. You can connect up to 10 different callers into one conversation, which will be useful for getting extended family members all in one place.

This app is also a great idea if you’re chatting to people on a variety of devices, as it’s available for desktop computers as well as the mobiles and tablets that Duo covers – you can just email over a link and your recipient can click on it.

Download for Android and iPhone/iPad, or follow this link to use on Desktop (all free)

Facebook Messenger

You no longer have to be signed up to Facebook to use Messenger, which offers video calling for up to 50 people at once. Yep, 50. Basically while this sounds amazing on paper you’ll need to stick to waving and yelling – but maybe that’s all we really need after a full kilogram of turkey, tbh.

App-averse relatives can access it via desktop computer, but only those using it on mobile or tablet get to enjoy that fully Christmassy bonus of self-decoration with a variety of virtual comedy hats and disguises. And whether that’s for extra bants points or just filling awkward silences, we support whatever works for you.

Download for Android and iPhone/iPad, or follow this link to use on Desktop (all free)

 

Skype

Had Skype kept its AMAZING built-in games, this article would be called ‘The one and only way to video chat with your family this Christmas‘. Imagine being able to whip out a virtual checkers board for some quality grandparental time – this loss happened years ago but we’re still literally weeping over it.

But yes we suppose Skype is still a great platform to connect with people, largely because it ticks all the non-board games boxes – plus one which none of the others on this page can.

Yes, it can handle up to 10 accounts in one video chat and it’s available on desktop – but the unique feature here, thanks to Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Skype, is its availability on Xbox. With the addition of any USB webcam, your teenage cousin can join in the festive fun without ever prising himself off his gaming chair – it truly is the most wonderful time of the year!

Download for Android, DesktopiPhone and iPad (all free)

JusTalk

One thing’s for certain about the JusTalk app – there’s no way this is ever going to serve double duty for professional conference calls.

There’s no desktop version, no screen-sharing; it’s one-to-one only, and its Night Mode (which allows you to be seen when chatting in the dark) doesn’t exactly lend itself to office use. Its USP is the ability to draw on your fellow chatter’s face.

But it’s all of the above features that make it perfect for talking to that special person in your life – you know, the one you’d prefer to be alone with at Christmas in front of a roaring fire, instead of stuck in your parents’ utility room on a fold-up bed while the dog licks your feet. Sigh.

Download for Android, iPhone/iPad (both free)

 

Viber

If you haven’t heard of Viber already, it’s worth checking out. The closest competitor to WhatsApp, it offers one thing the jolly green giant doesn’t: video calling. Oh, and a ton of stickers. Who doesn’t love stickers?

Stickers aside, it’s quite a versatile platform. Unlike WhatsApp Web, which makes you link up your phone to your desktop, Viber can be downloaded to a computer as a standalone app.

It also offers a great feature which might take some of the performance anxiety out of the live Christmas video chat – you can record and send video messages back and forth instead of shuffle in front of a screen while you mum orders you to tell Auntie Sheila about your new winter boots.

Download for AndroidiPhone/iPad, Windows desktop and Mac desktop (all free)

 

Tango

While Tango doesn’t stretch as far as a desktop computer, it does feature one very special aspect that has brought us so many buckets of Christmas joy already – TANGO GOT GAME, Y’ALL. Poker aside, they’re sadly not the classic board game type that unites generations, but we’ll take what we can get.

You can also lark around with live action masks and disguises, just like you would in Messenger, but chats are one-to-one. Think of this one as a virtual playground as opposed to a video conferencing app.

Download for Android and iPhone/iPad (both free)