The Quest for Chat – ooVoo

Last month we began our search for a product to replace Skype and we reviewed the disappointing Jitsi.

This month, we test-drive ooVoo with three GenXMedia product testers. One tester was on a Windows 8 laptop, one on a Windows 7 desktop, and one on a Windows XP laptop. We tested ooVoo for PC. There is also an iPhone, Android and Mac OS version, as well as an app for Facebook.

Like Skype, ooVoo allows for free voice calls to other users and calls to phone lines for a fee. Users can also send each other files, and transfer speeds were quite acceptable.

There were, however, immediate and evident advantages of ooVoo over Skype:

– Video call quality was quite good. Audio was crystal clear, and the webcams didn’t seem to slow things down much. We got the sense that ooVoo’s cloud-based servers had an easier time of handling the streaming than Skype’s dedicated supernodes.

– You can have as many as 12 different participants can join in a group video chat, for free. That’s impressive, and a premium feature in Skype (meaning you have to pay money for it).

– With ooVoo, you can leave a Video Message of up to five minutes in length for any contacts who aren’t online. Skype allows only voice messages at this time, although there are rumours of a video message feature coming.

– Like its multiple video chat, ooVoo offers a multiple screen share mode. This is extremely handy for collaboration with our group.

ooVoo’s YouTube sharing window

– ooVoo also allows you to send text messages to your Skype contacts, either through the ooVoo service, or as a standard text message to their phone.

– Another really neat feature was the ability to watch YouTube videos as a group. Essentially, the video appears as another participant in your conversation, but with playback controls attached to the display. Every member of the conversation could pause the video playback at any time for commentary, or people can just talk over the video. This is something we do more in our recreational time, but snarking videos is a lot easier and more fun this way.

– Setting up the audio and video devices was a breeze. Unlike Jitsi, ooVoo did automatically use the devices that were set as the defaults.

– Signing up for an account was also a piece of cake. ooVoo does allow you to import contacts from certain social media, but as an option. You can set up an independent account on ooVoo.

ooVoo, however, did have a few drawbacks.

– Where Skype contains everything in one window where you switch between several interfaces for things like contact lists, the current conversation, and older chats, all these features in ooVoo are broken out into several floating windows. You have one window for your contact list, one window for your current chat, another window for the text portion of that chat, and so on. Depending on what you’re used to, this could be very annoying and the adjustment difficult. The testers could not discover a way to dock these floating windows into a more familiar interface.

– ooVoo does not encrypt its audio or video. Not only does ooVoo use different server architecture to achieve its high quality of calls, ooVoo doesn’t waste any resources or bandwidth encrypting anything that’s transmitted. Skype at least does that. This is a major strike against it for our testers.

– Except for the multiple shared screens feature, there are no shared tools like whiteboards.

ooVoo’s “4-up” mobile multiple chat.

For Android, iPhone or iPad, ooVoo offers the same free group video chat, free voice calls to other ooVoo users, instant text messaging, a means to group your friends together for faster, one-touch video calling, the ability to leave video messages and a way to store your media (pictures and video files) for later retrieval. On the mobile devices, the video group chat still allows you to chat with up to 12 friends, but they are divided into 3 screens of 4-up displays and you swipe back and forth between the three screens.

The Mac OS version’s features are pared down from even the Mobile offering, with just the group video chat, free voice calls, instant text messaging, and screen share features available.

The premium version at $29.99 annually is inexpensive compared to Skype (last time I checked an annual fee for Skype was $56), but all you get for it is the removal of advertising in the chat window, something called “priority support”, and up to 1000 minutes of video storage.

The verdict:

The additional features in ooVoo certainly put it in the “contender” column, but the lack of encryption might just keep it from being a “winner”. We like it a lot, but it could be better.

One thought on “The Quest for Chat – ooVoo

  1. Communication software without ANY encryption ?? On today's internet ??? Leading the pack ??? You can't be serious !!

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