App showdown: Skype vs. Google Hangouts

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It’s a bit ironic that we look at old TV shows like The Jetsons and still marvel at the “what the future holds.” As far as we’re concerned, the future is already here: Video calls like the ones we used to ogle in classic TV show are now commonplace. Across UC Berkeley’s campus, you can see people catching up with friends back home, working on projects or just making small talk though video calls — there’s a good chance you yourself have been in one since the school year started. But there’s one question people like to ask: Google Hangouts or Skype? It’s a modern rivalry as great as Ford versus Chevy, as Windows versus Mac or as Fat Slice versus Blondie’s. So it’s time for us to take the gloves off and see which app and service is really king.

The first standard anybody cares about when it comes to video calls is quality: If you can’t tell who the hell you’re talking to, your video call isn’t going to be of much use. Before we go into all of this, let’s just put one warning out there: Your mileage will vary. Say it slowly with us: Your mileage may vary. There you go. There are a lot of factors that can mess up call quality, and that should be kept in mind. With that said, we’ve found Skype to be a bit superior in this area. People generally appear clearer, and you can usually understand what they’re saying. Google Hangouts has a tendency to get a bit grainy at times, and the audio can skip on occasion.

Really, it's more than just a pretty logo

The second half of this equation is features, and this is where Google Hangouts really shines. It is the kitchen sink of video-calling software: You can dress each other up in funny hats, use cool effects or even watch a YouTube video together. Cool, right? But there’s one feature Google Hangouts has that really makes it stand out from the pack: You can group-call for free. Skype makes you pay for its premium version to do that, and it’s not a feature that’s commonly found. Those buddies from high school? Open up a Google Hangout window, throw up to 10 of them in there and you’re having a reunion.

There are little things about each service that might matter to you, too. Skype is a Microsoft service, and you can use it to make real phone calls. Like, ring ring. That was a feature that mattered a lot back in the day, but it matters a lot less in our modern era, in which nobody actually calls one another. Google Hangouts uses your pre-existing Gmail account and doesn’t require you to install anything other than a small plugin to get it running  — making the process of using it quite painless. On the other hand, Skype is available in more places — computers, phones, tablets and even the new Xbox One — but they make you jump through so many hoops to set it up that it makes even Tele-BEARS look like a humane system. Ultimately, however, these small advantages and free group calls puts Google Hangouts on top in our opinion, despite its sometimes lackluster video quality.

Winner: Google Hangouts

Image Sources: Ryan Fanshaw and Magnet4MArketing under Creative Commons

Contact Sherdil Niyaz at [email protected]