The video chat client ooVoo has recently updated to include a home screen widget and text messaging during video calls. ooVoo’s main bragging point with this update is that it can support four-person video call on mobile, if for whatever reason that’s a regular thing you need to do.
Users can make calls easily from the mobile app, either to land lines (provided you pump some credit into your account) or to users on Facebook or ooVoo. While you’re on a video call, you can send and receive text messages, which is handy for web links, phone numbers, or e-mail addresses that pop up during conversations. ooVoo users can set their status to online, busy, away, or invisible, and include a custom status message if they like.
ooVoo is laid out simply with a series of tabs along the bottom, in a very readable black/white/grey color scheme with orange highlights. ooVoo takes up a permanent spot in your notification menu unless you opt not to automatically start the app. There’s also a home screen widget for quick access to your ooVoo contacts.
Overall, the style of the app isn't particularly exciting. There aren't any screen transition animations, though navigation is functional and sensible.
ooVoo has a great suite of settings for ensuring that you aren’t going to be perpetually bothered with instant messages or calls - a real danger when hooking into Facebook. Privacy settings can limit visibility and ability to call, plus there are tailored sound settings for all of the major alerts.
The implementation of video calling through Facebook isn’t particularly elegant. Facebook doesn’t actually open up its native video calling capabilities to anyone but Skype, so ooVoo has to send a link to Facebook users over Chat, and then they have to initiate the call through their Facebook app. The first go-around usually requires those users to do a fair bit of set-up as far as browser and app permissions go. There's also a desktop app available if you want to video chat with 12 people simultaneously. There isn’t much Facebook integration beyond the messaging side; it would be nice if you could tap a user’s picture in ooVoo and have it launch into the Facebook app, or at least their profile on the mobile site.
The video call quality is fine, with the usual amount of lag. You can only invite extra people to an existing call if they’re ooVoo members, which is a bit of a pain. There are a few problems, though. The camera feed isn't improperly mirrored, resulting in backwards text. Stability isn't great; I had a few crashes, and sometimes calls simply wouldn't go through.
- 4-way video chat
- Clunky implementation of Facebook video calling
- Iffy stability
While novelty of mobile group video chats has lost some luster since Google Hangouts have become available, ooVoo is staying fairly fresh by offering messaging options for Facebook. Of course, Skype has a huge presence on mobile, and also has a deep partnership with Facebook, but they have yet to bring screen sharing to their Android app. ooVoo also matches Skype in features like native address book syncing, and calling to outside phone lines (provided a user has credit).
If you’ve already got Google Plus and Skype installed, ooVoo won’t have much to offer, but if you only have one or the other, there will be a few features here that might be worth your time. If you don't have either, ooVoo's covers a reasonable video feature set across both. Personally, 4-way video calling isn’t something I do often, but if that’s the killer feature for you, and for some reason you don’t like Google Hangouts, ooVoo is a solid alternative.
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