Free video conferencing app Tango wants to dominate your life.
It wants your video calls. It wants your phone calls. It wants your spare time. It wants your social life. It wants your money.
And it’s accessible enough and has enough options to just about pull it off.
The app that began life in the last decade as a straightforward video conferencing platform for smartphones has grown over the years into an amalgam of Skype, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook.
Sure, at its heart, Tango is still a solid video chat service, one that’s fun and functional. But with some serious investment from tech giants such as Alibaba Group, the app now carries a trove of features that can sometimes make you feel like you’re still in the app store long after you’ve signed up.
More Than Two Can Tango
Tango is my personal favorite smartphone video chat app. The “smartphone” part of that sentence is important–I prefer to use a laptop/PC platform to video chat whenever possible, simply because you get a little more grunt from the technology, and a lot more screen.
But Tango is my smartphone app of choice because it’s easy to use, dependable, and has some fun quirks to keep the attention of the young and silly at heart.
Tango was one of the first smartphone video apps to raid your phone directory and social media accounts upon setup, and it makes the process of adding people to your list of contacts as easy as touching their icon and waiting for them to sign up. You will have to get them on board, though, because Tango doesn’t extend it services to non-members.
Once you’ve spread the word that you’re available on Tango, you can connect in seconds by again tapping the required contact’s icon.
Tango can handle group chatting and video calls, but you’d be better off using the text version if you want to communicate effectively with more than just a few people.
After you’ve enjoyed a call or two, take the time to go through your settings and make sure you’re comfortable with all the sharing Tango wants to do with your information. If you let Tango handle the introductions, you might meet some unexpected people.
How Big Is Too Big for a Social Circle?
Tango’s desire to emulate the broad social media webs cast by Twitter and Facebook has led it to create Discover, a way of putting you in touch with strangers in your local area and around the globe. There’s also a series of chat rooms available for socializing–you’ll need the add-on Fiesta–and it’s a good space in which to take advantage of Tango’s music and content partners.
If you make your profile public you’ll be made visible and searchable to anyone on the Tango network–and there are more than 300 million. The service can be used in conjunction with your phone’s GPS to make you visible to everyone in your immediate vicinity.
You can follow people, much as you do on Twitter, and chat and call them to discuss any common interests.
I’ve never used Discover for more than just a curiosity because it seems ripe for exploitation. And, after just a basic online search, I’ve found many people complaining they’ve been inundated with spammers, scammers, and other ne’er-do-wells while using it.
Instead, I’ve stayed away and used Tango for chatting with more established contacts.
Luckily Tango works just fine as a private line.
The President Is on the Line
Tango’s basic video conferencing experience is based around a dependable connection that, while subject to the occasional lag, seldom suffers from dropouts, even on our regular coast-to-coast calls.
The screen is kept clean to maximize viewing room, and you can disguise yourself in all manner of filters, avatars, and masks, including an Obama mask, which function well enough to carry off the illusion for the open-minded and imaginative. A heads-up, though–the superimposed graphics track your head movements far better than your mouth. it’s quite tricky to get the full Gene Simmons effect if you’re wearing the KISS mask.
You can also play games in real-time, and share all manner of music, entertainment, and news items made available through Tango’s aggressive partnering with the likes of Spotify, Buzzfeed, and Vimeo–the most visible outcome of all that commercial investment.
The all-important visuals are clear when using a 3G or better network, but they won’t wow you in any kind of 4K sense of the word. And you’ll sometimes get a little audio echo as well, but these are minor concerns.
Thankfully, your calls are also left free of the ads that regularly populate the menu screens, although you’ll be prompted to purchase a few masks and games should you be scrolling through such options while online.
In fact, being engaged with a call is the best way to get away from Tango’s overtly commercial nature, which is its biggest failing.
Keep It Personal and You’ll Keep Coming Back
Tango does have other shortcomings.
You can’t cross devices the way Viber does, and you can’t speak to users of other video conferencing apps the way WebRTC-based apps can.
You can also get lost in all the features and menu options in a manner that would have users of Skype and JusTalk reaching for the uninstall button. It’s also more involved to install than both those options.
But Tango has all the competition’s offerings beaten with its solid, reliable basic video and audio. In my experience, once you get familiar with all its features (and know what to ignore), Tango gives you real variety as well as quality when making regular calls to family and friends.