Skype Vs. Google Video Chat

9/12/2012 9:03:53 AM

The sheer power of video is well-known; we all remember what it did to radio back in the '80s, after all. But what would happen if video picked a fight with video? Curious, we tossed two of the top video chat options into a cage to determine the superior specimen. Skype may be the big man on campus, but Google's scrappy video calling plugin delivers the same features from within the Google ecosystem. There can be only one!

Round 1: Video and Audio Quality

Google video chat looks bet­ter, hands down. As you can see in the screenshots at right – which were taken with the same device, on the same network, in the same time frame – Google’s picture is clean and clear.

Description: Whether you're using it in Google+, Gmail, or the Google Talk app, Google's video calls come through crisp and clear. And the Ul is very clean and intuitive.

Whether you're using it in Google+, Gmail, or the Google Talk app, Google's video calls come through crisp and clear. And the Ul is very clean and intuitive.

Skype, on the other hand, is much more pixelated and blurry, though still service­able. There are more glitches and momentary freezes in Skype's video calls. Don't get us wrong, Skype is totally us­able – just nowhere near as smooth as Google video chat. These results stayed the same across multiple devices and networks.

The audio quality for both services is akin to talking to someone on a cellphone. As expected, group video chats degrade in quality as more users join in, though Google handles large groups better.

Winner: Google

Round 2: Device Support

Both video chat services do a bang-up job of supporting all the major operating systems, including Linux. The big dif­ference lies in auxiliary device support. Google's desire to integrate video and voice calling into its ecosystem and Skype's focus on universal functional­ity come to a head here.

Description: Device Support – Skype is winner

Device Support – Skype is the winner

Google video chat is avail­able on both Android devices and the iPhone via either the Google+ or Google Talk apps, but that's about it. Skype, on the other hand, makes video calls through its dedicated Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone apps, as well as a grow­ing number of Smart TVs that either ship with Skype and a webcam or offer a webcam accessory.

On the social media front, Google video chat powers Google+'s Hangouts while Skype provides the muscle be­hind Facebook's video calling.

Winner: Skype

Round 3: Ease of Use/ Installation

Google video chat is a browser plugin rather than a stand­alone program, so installing it is a marvel of simplicity: In­stall the plugin, then restart your browser. Boom! Done. (The desktop Google Talk app doesn't support video calling.) The service uses your exist­ing Google ID so most people won't even need to go through the hassle of setting up an ac­count, though Google chats only work in Gmail, Google+, and the GTalk app.

Ease of Use/ Installation – Google is the winner

Ease of Use/ Installation – Google is the winner

Skype is a stand-alone pro­gram, so it takes a bit more work to set up. The process is straightforward, but download­ing and installing a large pro­gram, then creating a Skype account takes much longer than setting up Google's video chat plugin.

Both services are remark­ably easy to use: Just select a contact and start jib-jabbering. Chatting couldn't be simpler.

Winner: Google

Round 4: Additional Features

Both services include the abil­ity to make free voice calls to other members and low-cost calls to outside telephone lines, but Google one-ups Skype by offering free calls to the U.S. and Canada. Skype currently charges 2.3 cents per minute for domestic U.S. calls.

Description: Additional Features – Google continuously is the winner

Additional Features – Google continuously is the winner

Google offers free, limited texting through Google Voice, but not directly through the video plugin itself. You need to pay 9 cents per domestic text with Skype.

Google also comes out on top during group video chats. Google+ Hangouts are easy, powerful, and support up to 10 simultaneous users, for free. The ability to edit Google Docs or watch YouTube videos as a group is a huge plus. Skype handles 10-person video conferences, too, but at least one person has to have a Premium subscription.

Winner: Google

Round 5: Number of Users

This originally wasn't even going to be a category, but then we tried to actually use Google's video chat and none of our numerous Google con­tacts were online to serve as test subjects, aside from fel­low professional tech dorks. Ditto the second time we went online... and the third... and the seventh....

Description: And about Number of Users, Skype is the Winner

And about Number of Users, Skype is the Winner

Posting a request for help on Google+, where we have hundreds of followers, result­ed in a couple of positive re­sponses (thanks, Scott Davis and Trevor Foster!) and sev­eral comments along the line of, ‘Meh, I don't use that.’

Skype, however, is virtually synonymous with video chat­ting and overflowing with ac­tive users. A key factor is the integrated Facebook function­ality; your Facebook Friends also appear online with Skype. Finding people to chat with is a snap on Skype.

Winner: Skype

And the Winner is...

What? Google video chat won three out of five rounds – including A/V quality, by far – and Skype still wins the crown? Yep, and here's why: Google video chat is a ghost town. Skype may not look as pretty or offer Google video chat's bells and whistles, but it's nevertheless an incredibly solid service with a user base that actually uses it. Your mileage may vary if you can convince your pals to board Google's bandwagon, however.

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