You don’t need any special equipment to host or join in on a video conference. Whether you’re engaging in a serious business meeting or just reconnecting with friends and family, the iPad itself is all you will need, along with an app or two.
There are two main apps that you will want to use for any video chat: Apple’s own FaceTime, which comes bundled with any iDevice, or Skype, which can be downloaded for free from the App Store.
How do you choose which to use?
If your meeting or chat is scheduled to be with someone who also uses an Apple device, FaceTime is a no brainer. Otherwise, Skype is the clear winner, because it can be installed on multiple platforms. FaceTime is limited between two people, but you can use Skype to chat with more than one person.
As a writer, I often conference with coworkers and fellow writers, and we all use Skype for this purpose.
When setting up a chat, you need to take into account whether or not you and your chat partner will have access to WiFi, because while Skype will function over 3G/4G, FaceTime will not. When iOS 6 comes out, those of you on AT&T’s shared plans will be able to access FaceTime over 3G/4G, and at this point, it’s unclear how cellular FaceTime will work on other networks like Verizon.
Essentially, if you can’t manage to wrangle up a WiFi connection, you’ll want to use Skype as your chatting platform.
Both Skype and FaceTime are easy to set up. You can use FaceTime with just your Apple account, and while you will need to sign up for a Skype account, it only takes a few minutes to complete.
Keep in mind that if you are chatting over 3G using Skype, the video quality will be dependent on your connection, and it will also eat up your data quickly. It’s always better to chat from home or pop into a coffee shop to save that precious data that’s nearly as expensive as gold.
While you don’t need any accessories to video chat with your iPad, it can be tiresome to hold the tablet upright if you plan on talking for an extended period of time. Almost all iPad cases come with decent stand functionality, and if you prefer to go caseless, consider investing in a small, portable iPad stand like Twelve South’s Compass.
A stand or a case will let you chat hands free, which is much more relaxing. If you need better audio quality, you can pick up something like the Jawbone Jambox, which is a speaker that doubles as a microphone for calls and for FaceTime chats.
There are quite a few video chatting platforms out there, but it’s not worth downloading anything beyond the two most common options. Why make the person you’re chatting with download an obscure app when FaceTime and Skype are both readily available?
Of course, if this is a work conference, you might want to use something that’s a bit more secure. Company IT techs will likely have a system in mind, like Fuze, which is designed for enterprise businesses.
As with any video chat, it’s important to remember that you’re not just speaking on the phone. They can see you too, so the number one video conferencing rule? Put on some pants!
Do you have any video chatting tips? A favorite app? Share it with us in the comments.