Video Telephony in Dictionary

Whether business conferences with participants at different locations, conversations with relatives living far away or a long-distance relationship – video telephony makes all of this easier. The concept: people who are in different locations can make calls and see each other. In addition to Skype, the best-known program for video calls, there are more and more apps that enable video telephony. They are often not only limited to this function, but also offer chat functions and enable connection to social media such as Facebook or WhatsApp. Interested parties can find out how a video call works and what they need to be able to see the people they are speaking to while they are on the phone.

  • Today video telephony takes place over the Internet.
  • For video telephony, users need a smartphone with a front camera or a PC with an integrated or external webcam.
  • The best known providers are: Skype, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

How does video telephony work?

The first attempts to enable phone calls with image transmission were made at the beginning of the 20th century. From 1936 onwards, there were public television telephones in which video calls took place. In the 1980s, the Deutsche Bundespost began laying fiber optic cables for the telephone network as part of the BIGFON project. A video telephony network was also created, aimed primarily at the deaf. They were able to communicate with the help of so-called videophones. However, they were quite expensive and offered a relatively poor image quality.

Today, video telephony takes place over the Internet as a matter of course. Anyone using a PC or smartphone can register with providers such as Skype and – provided the person they want to talk to also uses the application – start a video call with one click. The quality of the picture and sound depends on the internet connection of the caller and the quality of the recording devices.

What do I need for a video call?

For video telephony, users need a smartphone ( Apple or Android is sufficient) with a front camera or a PC with an integrated or external webcam. Appropriate video calling software is also required. Alternatively, you can also use existing applications such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, which also enable video telephony. Skype or FaceTime are also often preinstalled. Users then have to log in or register with the selected app. Depending on the provider, this is possible with your own mobile phone number, landline number, email address or a special ID. The phone contacts stored on the smartphone or PC can usually be imported without any problems.

Which video telephony providers are there?

More and more communication service providers are offering video telephony. Some score with additional functions such as text chats, a camera that can be switched off or funny filters and emojis. Users should make their decision based on which functions are important to them, which security requirements they have and which operating system they are using. Some of the best known video call providers include:


The pioneer in video telephony is now part of Microsoft and is known to almost everyone. The advantages of Skype, in addition to the good transmission quality, are the flexible registration modalities and the possibility of calling people who do not have a Skype account for a fee.


The Apple counterpart to Skype has been available for iPhone, iPad, iPod and Mac since 2010. The registration takes place with an Apple ID. Users can use both front and rear cameras for their phone calls.

Facebook Messenger

With Facebook Messenger, users can not only send text and voice messages, but also make video calls – there are also various filters and effects to choose from. Even those who do not have a Facebook account can use the video chat function.


Video calls have only been possible on WhatsApp since 2016. Users can switch between the front and rear cameras and switch off the microphone if necessary. Group calls are not possible.

Google Duo / Hangouts

The two Google apps offer different advantages: Duo impresses with its high image and sound quality and enables a smooth transition between WLAN and mobile data volume. Hangouts is particularly good for group chats – Duo doesn’t offer this feature. It can also be used without a Google account.


Some people probably know this instant messenger from the early days of the Internet. Despite its decreasing popularity, ICQ is still around – now the program also offers video telephony.


In addition to text chats, voice messages and free phone calls, this app, which was released in 2010, has also been offering a video call function since 2014.

Are there any costs for video calls?

Most video telephony applications are available free of charge from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. Users can make the calls themselves via WLAN or cellular networks. Costs are only incurred if there is no internet flat rate and the data consumption exceeds the available data volume. In addition, Skype calls, for example, are chargeable if they apply to people who are not registered there.

How secure is video telephony?

The majority of providers encrypt video calls, chats and voice messages end-to-end. These include FaceTime, Viber, ICQ, WhatsApp, and Google Duo. If security is particularly important to you, you are making the right choice with these applications. Skype and Facebook Messenger, on the other hand, do not offer end-to-end encryption. Skype uses encryption algorithms, but has not been considered bug-proof for some time. How Facebook handles its users’ data is unclear.