WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook Inc. and has 1.5 billion monthly active users globally of which about 200 million are from India, has begun rolling out group video calling on its iOS and Android apps. The service is free but currently available only to users who have signed up for WhatsApp’s beta program. To initiate a group video call, users have to first start a video call with an individual contact in a group. Once the call is accepted, a people icon will pop up at the top of the screen allowing users to up to add four people to the call. The screen gets split into four smaller screens to show every participant.

Instagram, again owned by Facebook, recently added a similar feature in its Android and iOS apps, allowing up to four people to share a video call simultaneously. However, users need to go to a group chat in Instagram Direct and tap on the video camera icon. During the call, one can minimize the chat screen and browse through Instagram posts simultaneously.

Facebook Messenger’s group video calling, too, is free but users can’t start a video call with an individual and convert it into a group call. They have to create a group or use an existing group and then choose to call all the members or seek out individuals from the group for the video call. Messenger can add up to 50 people in a single group call. However, it can’t accommodate every caller on the screen. Only the first six people to join the call will get the screen space at a time—the rest are reduced to thumbnails at the bottom of the screen.

Messenger also provides stickers such as country flags (recently added for the football World Cup fans) and face masks to make group video calling more fun. 

Microsoft Corp.-owned  Skype for Android and iOS also supports video calling in groups and is free. Users can start a video call with one person and add up to 25 people to the same session or can choose all the participants at first and then let them join the session. If a call involves more than five people, the interface will automatically switch to the ‘focus mode’ where the speaker’s face shows on most of the screen while the rest of the users will show as thumbnails at the bottom of the screen.

Google Hangouts allows video calls with up to 25 people, simultaneously. To start a group video call, user has to tap on the + icon at the bottom of the screen, followed by the video call button and select the contact they want to chat with. It is free and available on both Android and iOS. 

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