This month, Telegram marked 7 years. To celebrate this milestone, the chat app also announced a long-awaited feature that’s kept it in the rear mirror of competitors like Whatsapp, Skype, WeChat or Kakaotalk. Like its peers, Telegram now support video calls enabling users keep in touch with family and friends, collaborate with classmates or workmates.
With a global pandemic in hands, the need for remote collaboration and communication can’t be overstated. Video calls are available on both Android and iOS platform. They are end-to-end encrypted just like chat messages, so you don’t have to worry about prying eyes. Group calls are not yet supported, but Telegram says these will be coming in the “coming months”.
The Dignited team heavily uses Telegram for our day-to-day workflows, so it’s no surprise that we are super excited about this development. So this week, I have been testing video calls by calling some of the team members to see how it stacks up against the competition and whether or not we can use Telegram calls for our remote meetings.
To be honest, Telegram video calls still feel quite raw at this point, but to be fair, the feature is still in its “alpha version”. Our internet connection isn’t also the best. I tested the calls on Liquid Home internet which topped at about 5Mbps. Sydney, my workmate uses Roke Telkom home internet which also ranges between 3-6Mbps. With these speeds, my expectations are quite low, although a good video calling app should automatically optimize for different bandwidth profiles.
To make video call, you select on your contact’s profile page, then tap video call. Once a video call is ongoing, you can toggle between audio and video mode. Video calls support picture-in-picture mode allowing you to scroll through chats and multitask on your phone.
During the call, switching from portrait to landscape and back isn’t as smooth. I found the picture goes out of scale before it re-orientates itself to the right aspect ratio. While the audio is perfect, the video itself kept buffering and quite blurry. It’s obviously not conclusive whether it was just my internet speed or the app. I hope Telegram will fix these issues in the coming month inorder to effectively compete with several alternatives like Whatsapp, Google meet, Microsoft teams or Zoom.
Telegram is definitely always at the edge of innovation. End-to-end encryption on chats, audio and video calls is a welcome privacy addition in the age of massive online surveillance. Currently one-to-one video calls are supported. I think Telegram should smoothen out the experience before they embark on group video calls as promised.