After the initial euphoria around video-conferencing apps, more particularly Zoom, died down, many new players started experimenting with new features. Zoom hasn’t changed much since, but it has reinvented its security, Microsoft Teams has introduced virtual backgrounds and Google Meet has been experimenting with Artificial Intelligence (AI) to reduce ambient noise. There are two new entrants —two telecom companies—in the Indian market trying to upend video-conferencing. Although plain vanilla versions, they can certainly have a mass appeal in the Indian market.
There was a reason for Zoom surging in popularity, even though the app allowed only 40 minutes of free video calling—its USP was the easy user interface. No login was required if you just wanted to join a meeting. Recording was available even in the free version and video quality was better than the competitors. The app hasn’t changed much since, instead it has incorporated more security and privacy features. Muting participants, disabling screen sharing from all and waiting room are just some of them. The app has even improved on security, but the fun part is virtual backgrounds and the fact it can accommodate 49 participants in gallery view. The Android/iOS app is relatively cumbersome.
The advantage with Teams is that it is more than a video calling app. Teams is more of a business suite. The setup is nowhere easy, but that is compensated by the fact that you do not need a platform like Slack, if you are running Teams. Besides, the app can be run as a web platform, so there is no requirement for downloads. There is no limit to calls, but Teams, unlike Zoom, limits the number of videos you can view at once. Teams only allows nine people in gallery view, although this would improve with team or conference mode—Teams’ answer to Zoom—the video quality is still not good.
The main advantage of Teams is the app ecosystem, which allows you to share apps like drawing board and collaboration, where people can not only share screen but grant access to others. The Microsoft apps and 10GB of file sharing space is good enough for free mode. The Android/iOS apps, however, is not as smooth and has latency issues. Video, especially via app, are a problem where focus and magnified view become a problem.
The first drawback of Meet is the Gmail requirement. If you aren’t logged in, access is impossible. But that is all that is there to Meet. The app is plain vanilla and does not offer much. The UI is hassle free, not as easy as Zoom, but it does the job. The advantage of Google is the suite features which come integrated with the app. Screen sharing is better than any other app. The video quality is not as good and there is no desktop version. The company did incorporate AI to reduce ambient noise, but the solution is still not perfect.
Not really a new offering, but after the tie-up with Airtel it is a new thing for the Indian market at least. The clear advantage is video and sound quality. Incorporated with features like Dolby Voice, Blue Jeans has better sound quality than other apps. But the user interface is a problem. Scheduling a meeting is cumbersome in the app, as it redirects you to the website. Airtel does not say till when the app will be available in free mode, but there are indications that it my be bundled with premium plans. But BlueJeans will have to address a lot many issues. There are lags in screen sharing that will have to be addressed. The chat is not as functional, and both the desktop and app versions require too many clicks and taps to complete a task. The slider on the side while sharing screen is a nifty feature, you can zoom in and out of view, without much hassle. BlueJeans has limitations in terms of gallery view—only nine people are allowed—and the number of participants allowed in a call.
The truly desi Indian video conferencing app and a blatant copy of Zoom, JioMeet has nothing different to offer except for its free everything model. There are no time limits, but the design of the app is unappealing. The app is pixelated and none of the icons look in place. The features are an imitation of Zoom, but the video and sound quality is bad, and nowhere near what Zoom offers.