Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, even if you can’t meet your friends and family in person, you can still talk to them face to face, almost as if you were together in the same room.
Here are some of the best apps for staying connected with your loved ones.
Zoom is one of several video calling apps that you can download and use for free.
The app allows you to hold a video call with as many as 100 people - though you might find chatting with so many people a tad chaotic. Free group meetings are limited to 40 minutes. If you’re enjoying Zoom and want calls to last a little longer, you can sign up for a Pro account.
Zoom is extremely popular, claiming 300 million daily meeting participants, but it has been criticised for security and privacy problems, such as allowing meeting hosts to track attendees. However, Zoom has recently promised to address these concerns.
Skype and Microsoft Teams
Skype has been around since 2003.
It’s fairly similar to Zoom, although there are occasional criticisms about its reliability. In fact, Microsoft is now focusing its efforts on its Teams video calling app, which had previously been aimed entirely at business customers, but has grown its number of users massively in recent months.
This app claims to be the ‘next best thing to hanging out in person’, and certainly has a less corporate feel than some of the alternatives.
As the name suggests, it’s intended to function like a house party. You are alerted when your friends are “in the house” and ready to chat. The same is true for when you open the app; your friends will know you’re ready to chat and can join you. You can also ‘lock’ your house party, so once you and your friends are chatting, there’ll be no gate-crashers.
There have been some concerns about the security of the app, which has only been around since 2016, but the app's owner Epic Games insists it’s safe.
While you may or may not choose to use its video call function - which is limited to eight people - WhatsApp has become a hugely popular way to stay in touch.
You can create group chats to share messages, images and videos with family and friends, as well as quickly record and send voice messages.
One added advantage for the security-conscious is that WhatApp’s messages and video calls are encrypted.
Words With Friends 2
Just having a chat over a video call may not always feel like enough. Sometimes you may want to add a little more fun to it.
An online game could be the answer. For a simple, social introduction to gaming, try Words With Friends - or the 2017 sequel - which is like Scrabble for phones.
This game app masterminded by Ellen Degenerous is perfect if you’re up for some creative and competitive fun.
You can play live with as many people as you want and take your pick from a variety of fun categories. Each player needs to make up fake answers to trivia questions, which are then mixed with the real answer, and the others have to guess which one is right.
Fancy giving your brain some exercise while socialising? Then give Quiz Up a try. This free app enables you to play trivia games with friends and family - or random opponents from around the world.
You can choose from a huge array of topics, ranging from general knowledge or sports, to Harry Potter and Disney.
Video-sharing app TikTok used to be dominated by teenage users but has recently gained a wider following and has now been downloaded by more than 2 billion users around the world.
Users create 15-second-long videos, capturing funny and memorable moments, which they can then take to the next level by adding features such as special effects filters or music.
You can now turn a film night into a social event.
A new Google Chrome extension has been launched that enables groups of friends and family, strung across different locations, to watch and comment on programmes and films together.
Netflix Party synchronises video playback and adds group chat. You will,of course, all need subscriptions to the streaming service.
From catching up with friends to hosting a family games night, these ten apps have got everything you need to stay connected with your loved ones and have fun while you’re at it.