Avoid Video Conferencing Problems With the Top Bug-Free Apps

by:
on December 21, 2016

Ah, the sound of business in the 21st century! Or—the lack of sound?

That is, if you’re temporarily experiencing one-way audio issues due to a buggy video conferencing client:

The cone of silence works better for real meetings than video meetings…

 

So what’s the answer?

Well, you could look at the many articles out there on how to troubleshoot video conferencing issues (cuz we all know that the beginning of an important meeting is the perfect time for troubleshooting, right?)

Or, you could look at the results of a survey we ran to identify the most bug-free video conferencing clients, and pick one that’s less likely to start acting up in the first place.

We surveyed employees about dozens of video conferencing pain points and collected tons of data about the hardware, software and browsers they use to communicate.

We’ll discuss not just which app surfaced as the most “bug-free” overall, but also the most “bug-free” apps in a number of categories (“most bug-free for mobile,” “most bug-free for laptop,” “most bug-free for Chrome” etc.).

Best-In-Class Video Conferencing Apps

There are lots of ways to rank products.

Frequently, we rank products according to how “satisfied” their users are, or how much users “like” the product.

But let’s be real, aesthetic preferences aren’t guiding your choice for a video conferencing app. You want something that works (hopefully, or else you’re in for some disappointment).

Thus, our survey about video conferencing apps only asked respondents about the problems they have using video conferencing apps.

We asked about:

 

Audio problems One way audio, poor audio quality, poor cancellation of ambient noise in room
Joining problems Trouble joining with PIN, trouble joining PIN-less conference
Video problems One-way/no video, poor video quality
Compatibility problems Browser compatibility, mobile app compatibility
Functionality problems Difficulty using:
• Presenter controls
• Participant controls
• Re-assigning presenter role (i.e., “passing the mic”)
• Recording
• Polling
• Interface for large meetings

 

Finally, we asked respondents how often they have to resort to a completely different communication tool (phone call, in-person meeting, alternative conferencing client) due to the severity of these issues.

Using 406 responses, we ranked the apps that are most free of the bugs listed above.

We then weighted rankings by the total number of respondents who are using that particular app and who meet additional criteria, such as using Google Chrome as a browser for web conferencing.

We’ll look at the top app in each category as well as two runners-up, in order to give you plenty of options.

NOTE: We’ll also indicate which apps are “freemium”—i.e., which apps can be downloaded and used for free without your organization purchasing licenses—and which are “paid”—i.e., which apps require a license for use.

Here are the apps that came out on top:

Most Bug-Free Overall

Microsoft Skype (freemium)

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft Skype came out on top as the best all-purpose video conferencing app (and far and away the most popular, with 53 percent of our sample relying on Skype as their primary client for business video conferencing).

Video conference in Microsoft Skype for Business
 

One advantage of Skype is that it’s available both in a free consumer version and in a business version that integrates with your phone system for added flexibility and functionality.

Microsoft is now selling a phone system (Cloud PBX) that sports out-of-the-box integration with Skype, and Skype also integrates with third-party phone systems (see our report on Skype for Business integrations to learn more about your options).

I personally use Lync (the app that has been “rebranded” as Skype for Business) as a reliable fallback when experiencing issues with our primary video conferencing software. I have never experienced a single issue with a video meeting in Lync for Mac in nearly three years of usage.

1st runner-up for most bug-free overall is Cisco WebEx (paid).
WebEx is a flexible and robust video conferencing platform that, in my experience, works particularly well for large meetings with lots of speakers.

While I’ve personally witnessed a few issues with features breaking in WebEx or with audio and video feeds cutting out, some of those issues were clearly the fault of the networks through which participants were connecting.

2nd runner-up for most bug-free overall is Citrix GoToMeeting (freemium).
GoToMeeting has a very strong overall rating and is the a primary conferencing platform by 13 percent of our sample. GoToMeeting does offer a free version, but it only runs in Chrome and only supports three participants.

Most Bug-Free by Hardware Platform: Laptop, Tablet and Smartphone

The laptop is my personal go-to conferencing tool, and it’s also the tool of choice for 95 percent of our respondents.

The following table shows the most bug-free apps broken out by category. (We’ll profile the new players below the table.)

 

Hardware platform Most bug-free 1st runner-up 2nd runner-up
Laptop Microsoft Skype (freemium) Cisco WebEx (paid) Citrix GoToMeeting (freemium)
Tablet Google Hangouts (freemium) Citrix GoToMeeting (freemium) Microsoft Skype (freemium)
Smartphone Google Hangouts (freemium) Citrix GoToMeeting (freemium) Zoom (freemium)

 

Most bug-free for tablet:

Google Hangouts (freemium)
Google’s popular video conferencing client, Google Hangouts, proved to be the most bug-free option among respondents who use tablets for video conferencing.

This includes both iOS and Android tablets.

Google Hangouts is an attractive option for workplace usage, since it’s already bundled into the Google Apps for Work ecosystem, and it offers a ton of advanced conferencing features for free. We’ve covered the business features as well as the limitations of Hangouts in a previous report.

Hangouts integrates with Google Calendar to add click-to-join links to meeting invites
(Source: Google.com)

 

Many flavors of Hangouts are available, and Google works hard to ensure reliability across devices.

That said, I’ve run into numerous issues with Hangouts—ranging from persistent one-way audio to noticeable delays in the delivery of instant messages.

However, none of these issues have ever been severe enough to motivate my team to look for an alternative solution, and to be fair, I use Hangouts far more than any other client (generally in one to three meetings per day).

The Hangouts app proved to be the least buggy app in our sample for both mobile device categories.

2nd runner-up for most bug-free for smartphone is Zoom (freemium).
Zoom is another freemium solution, and offers robust features without forcing users to pay for a license. The freemium version allows users to host unlimited meetings with up to 50 participants, a rather high participant count for a freemium solution.

Most Bug-Free by Browser: Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer

Many popular conferencing clients now run either entirely in-browser using a web-based interface, or at least offer a web app to allow participants to join with web browsers.

Browser compatibility is thus crucial to ensuring a successful video conference. Here are the most bug-free clients for the most popular browsers.

We note in the table which have a fully browser-based interface for hosting meetings, and which only support participants joining meetings in-browser. Below, we’ll discuss some of the surprises that you’ll observe in this table:

 

Browser Most bug-free 1st runner-up 2nd runner-up
Google Chrome Microsoft Skype (freemium/joining via browser only) Cisco WebEx (paid/joining via browser only) Citrix GoToMeeting (freemium/full browser-based interface)
Mozilla Firefox Microsoft Skype (freemium/joining via browser only) Google Hangouts (freemium/full browser-based interface) Citrix GoToMeeting (freemium/full browser-based interface)
Microsoft Internet Explorer Microsoft Skype (freemium/joining via browser only) Cisco WebEx (paid/joining via browser only) Citrix GoToMeeting (freemium/full browser-based interface)

 

Out of all these options, GoToMeeting and Hangouts offer the most browser-based functionality for free. The free version of GoToMeeting only works in Chrome, but Hangouts works across browsers.

Intriguingly, the most bug-free app for Google Chrome is not Google Hangouts.
I’ve recently experienced some severe issues using Hangouts in conjunction with Chrome (neverending dialtone, one-way audio etc.) that were solved by switching to another browser (Safari).

Skype offers a web app that allows participants to join meetings in their browsers. Unlike Hangouts, however, Skype does not offer a free interface for hosting meetings using a web browser, which is one of the many reasons why Hangouts remains a compelling freemium offering.

WebEx has a robust plug-in for participating in browser-based online meetings. I’ve personally used WebEx in conjunction with Chrome on a regular basis with minimal issues, but don’t have experience using the tool with other browsers.

Next Steps

These are a few of the many conferencing clients out there. To compare even more options, you can visit our listing of online meeting tools.

Microsoft Skype and Google Hangouts both surfaced in our survey as free solutions with robust functionality and cross-platform reliability. We’ve written a guide to Skype’s integrations with various phone system types to help organizations get the most out of Skype’s business-grade features. We’ve also written on Hangouts’ business features.

We’re also curious whether you’re using any of the bug-free apps mentioned in our report for business video conferencing:

Which of of the following clients do you primarily use for video conferencing at your job?

View Results

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