The 5 Best Video Chat Apps for Long-Distance Relationships

In a long-distance relationship? Stay connected with video chat

Smiling young woman enjoying video chat on laptop
Robert Daly / Getty Images

Fostering a relationship is hard; it's even harder if you and your loved one are separated by distance and a few time zones. The web is overflowing with great tips for maintaining long-distance relationships, with most agreeing that communication is key. Fortunately, devoting time to talk face to face is easier than ever with the proliferation of great video chat sites and apps.

Before You Begin a Video Chat

Before you contact your special someone, a bit of preparation is in order. Getting the technical setup right can mean the difference between a successful conversation and a flop:

  • Purchase a webcam, if your computer doesn't have one. Your computer has speakers and probably a decent microphone, but a good headset won't go amiss.
  • Plug your webcam, microphone, and headphones into the appropriate ports on the computer.
  • Verify that your computer and your partner's computer meet the system requirements for the video chat site, service, or app.
  • Set a date with your partner.
  • On date night, set some soft lighting, grab a drink (or perhaps share the same dinner for two at a distance), and enjoy.

Here are your best bets for long-distance video chats:

01
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Facebook Messenger

Facebook Messenger

Facebook

What We Like

  • It's free.

  • Use on a computer from the Facebook site or on a mobile device with the Messenger app.

  • Don't need a Facebook account to use Messenger.

What We Don't Like

  • Privacy violations, check your settings before you call.

  • Behind-the-scenes location tracking is on unless you disable it.

  • Doesn't use the same permissions as your Facebook account.

If you're on Facebook, use the site's instant messaging client and video calling feature. Facebook Messenger is great for spontaneous moments when you want to see your partner but are too far away for a visit.

02
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IMO

The imo messenger windows desktop program

What We Like

  • Available for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.

  • Supports multiple social media platforms, including Google Hangouts.

  • Feature-rich, includes status messages and searchable chat history.

What We Don't Like

  • Setup can be a bit confusing.

  • Requires a mobile phone number and installation on a mobile phone before you can use the service on your computer.

  • Doesn't support Skype.

Another great option for when you want to connect quickly, IMO features a no-frills, web browser-based video chat experience. Sign in to the service, connect your webcam and microphone, and share the URL with the person you want to chat with. Simple.

03
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Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts

What We Like

  • Integrates with Google accounts.

  • Can be used in a web browser or in a mobile app.

  • YouTube integration to watch videos together in real-time.

What We Don't Like

  • Can't customize alert sounds.

  • Need a plug-in to use Hangouts on a computer.

  • Calls may not be free outside the United States and Canada.

With Google Hangouts, you can connect for free for video chat and telephone communications. But, what makes it a fantastic option for long-distance relationships is the fun things you can do together through the app:

  • Share YouTube videos.
  • Challenge each other to online games.
  • Share your location directly from the app.
  • Suppress all notifications for any conversation.
04
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WhatsApp

Using WhatsApp on desktop

Shutterstock

What We Like

  • End-to-end encryption enabled by default on all texts and calls.

  • Calls are free to any WhatsApp user.

  • Push notifications, emoticons, and more.

What We Don't Like

  • Can't message or video-call non-WhatsApp users.

  • Charges may apply for calls outside the United States.

  • Doesn't store conversations, but stores contact information.

WhatsApp is the most popular instant messaging app in the world. More than a billion people have installed it on their computers and smartphones. This app combines ease of use with powerful Voice over Internet Protocol features.

05
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FaceTime

FactTime on Mac or iPhone

 Apple Inc. 

What We Like

  • It's free and already on iOS devices.

  • End-to-end encryption of video and voice calls.

  • As easy as making a phone call.

What We Don't Like

  • Requires you and the person you're calling have an iPhone.

  • Need an iPhone 4 or later. For a Mac, need an iPhone with iOS 8 or later.

  • Change settings if you and the other person use the same Apple ID.

Sorry, Windows and Android folks: This one is just for Apple users. If you have an iPhone, you have FaceTime. Even better, if you have an iPhone and a Mac or iPad, you have FaceTime on those devices, too. Because FaceTime uses Wi-Fi, you can make video calls from any network or, if you have a data plan, on the go.