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Is a free conference call app really enough? (Well, sometimes)


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12 min read

 There are dozens of free conference call apps on the market that can help small businesses stay in touch with vendors, clients, and partners all around the world. 

But while free conference call apps are a great option for some small businesses, freelancers, or vendors, the truth is you get what you pay for. The vast majority of the time, free apps aren’t going to have all the benefits and features that you’ll get with a paid service—and for some, that’s okay. 

But how do you know if a free conference call app will work for your business, and how can you choose the right one? Let’s take a look. 

Keep reading to learn: 

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What to expect with a free conference call app 

No matter what free conference call app you choose, you should expect some trade-offs. If you’re not paying for your service, you’ll likely run into participant limits, time limits, or a drop in quality. (Often, all three.)

Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re always going to have a poor user experience when using a free app. You just need to know what exactly you’re sacrificing. While each free conference call app varies in what they offer, here are some of the features you might find in better options: 

  • Video conferencing 
  • Group or private messaging 
  • Call recording 

The thing is, not all conference call apps will offer every feature listed above. In order to find a free conference call app that works for your needs, you’ll most likely need to pick and choose which features are most important to you. 

What you won’t get with a free conference call app 

Free conference call apps work fine if you don’t really need to have long conversations or if you don’t have calls that have many people (like a big meeting with your client’s team). If you only ever plan to use your conference call app to meet one-on-one, go over small projects, or catch up, then a free tool would probably be okay. 

But what if you’re a bigger business? Or plan to grow quickly? Or what if it’s crucial for your day-to-day operations to be able to have calls with clients, partners, and vendors? Then a free app is probably going to hold you back. 

So, what are you missing when you opt for a free conference call service? Let’s explore some of the most important features you’ll probably miss out on with a free app. 

1. Features that create unique high-quality experiences for participants

When it comes to free apps, you’re most likely getting only the most basic features. This might mean access to video calls, but you’re not able to record, control who is able to speak, or share your screen. If you need to share visuals on calls like presentations or mockups, then you’ll need something like RingCentral Video, which allows you to make phone calls and also share your screen:

screen sharing feature in ringcentral conference call app

If you need to collaborate on documents together with someone else on the call, RingCentral Video lets you do that too through digital annotations:

annotation feature in ringcentral conference call app

And if you’re on a voice-only conference call, but need to show your team something visual, RingCentral lets you flip the call to a video screen share—without interrupting the meeting:

flipping a conference call between devices

While basic features make it easy to connect, paid apps give you the ability to make the conference call the closest thing to an in-person meeting—with even more useful features. RingCentral, for example, gives hosts full control of conference call meetings including everything from blocking unwanted callers to muting participants who are adding to unnecessary background noise. 

2. Higher participant limits 

While you can hold meetings quickly and easily with free conference call apps, you’re usually limited in the number of participants and you might have time limits that push you to rush through a meeting that really needs more care and attention. 

(Let’s just say that having to restart a meeting because you ran out of time can be, depending on how understanding your client is, embarrassing and unprofessional.)

Free conference call apps usually limit the number of calls you can host and how your team connects with your clients or partners. Whereas paid services give you multiple conference lines and even personalized numbers, using a free app might mean that your team needs to share phone numbers. 

If you have a team that’s bigger than about ten people or you have clients who have a handful of stakeholders who want to be involved on the calls, you might discover that a free conferencing app doesn’t allow everyone to be on the call at once.

(Do you really want to tell your client, “Hey, we can only have three people from your team on this call because our free app has a participant limit”?) 

3. Connectivity between teams and departments

Using free conference call apps can also create silos within your business. If each team is using a free app that fits their unique needs (but might not work for another department or team), then you’ll likely be storing information in multiple places. 

When you can’t easily share customer service call logs and insights with the sales and marketing teams, for instance, you might be missing out on real opportunities to make sure everyone has access to crucial team knowledge

This is also true if your conference call app is only good for making calls. Instead of using one app for conference calls, another for file sharing, and another for team messaging, what if you could do all of that—in one app?


💡 Pro-tip: 

Over the long run, using one paid app that consolidates all these features might actually be less expensive than using a free conference call app while paying for multiple apps that do those other things. But don’t take our word for it. Do the math and see if it makes more sense to streamline your apps.

For example, an all-in-one communication tool (it’s a platform, really) like RingCentral lets you connect with teammates and clients in one place. You can message someone, jump on a video call, or share important documents—without needing to switch between tabs and apps:


4. Security and analytics for better decision making

Finally, free conference apps rarely give you the high-level of security that paid apps come with.

Whether you need secure video conferencing or just audio conference calling, you should at the very least be aware of what your free conferencing app covers—and what it doesn’t.

You may also find that you need analytics and reporting for your conference calls, which can be crucial for measuring certain key performance indicators in areas like sales or customer support. 

Free apps often don’t track or provide the insights you need to make meaningful decisions. Paid tools, on the other hand, can allow you to evaluate team behaviors, track KPIs, and even receive real-time alerts about issues so you can troubleshoot problems faster. 

🕹️ Get a hands-on look at how RingCentral works by booking a product tour:

💰 You can also use this calculator to see roughly how much your business could save by using RingCentral to support your team’s communication with each other—and clients.

How to decide whether a free conference call app is right for you

If you think a free conference call app is right for you and your business, here are a few things to consider when making your decision. 

1. What features do you need?

As we already mentioned, when choosing a free app, it can be difficult to find a tool that gives you access to all the features you need. But if your budget is tight (or if you believe you can accomplish your goals without paying for a premium tool), you’ll need to determine which features you absolutely need and which you can go without. 

To do this, first think about who will be using your tool the most. Do you just need to connect with clients once in a while to discuss projects, or is your customer support team going to be taking calls from customers all day? What unique features do these teams need?

Remember, you may not want to focus too heavily on the free aspect as you’re shopping for an app. Many “free” conference call apps remove the features that a business would need in the free plan—you have to pay for them through upgrades or a higher-tier plan. Which ultimately makes them, well, not free.

2. How important is call quality? 

No matter who is using your conference call app or how long you plan to be on each call, you need a service that has high call quality and is easy to use for participants. If your calls get dropped constantly or it’s challenging for your clients or partners to even figure out how to get on a call, then a free service might actually hurt you more than it helps. 

Also, consider how you plan to call your conference participants. Do you need to see each other face-to-face (which makes HD video and call quality on laptops and desktops pretty important)? Do you need a mobile app experience because you’re often taking calls on the go? 

💡 Pro-tip: 

Don’t forget, when it comes to conference call apps, there are other things that can influence your call quality, including your connection or the device you’re using. You’ll want to test different apps to see how well they work with the phone or computer you want to call from.


3. What are your security and privacy needs?

This is a big one. Secure and private conversations are crucial for every business. You don’t want someone who doesn’t belong popping in and listening to your meeting—even if nothing you’re saying is confidential or you’re only connecting internally. 

Try to find a tool that offers options for passwords or PINs so you can better control who enters your conferences. For example, you can schedule a call right from the RingCentral app, which automatically gives you a few security options for your meeting:

scheduling a conference call meeting in ringcentral

Admin controls can also come in handy if you need to remove or mute a participant during a conference call. (Hey, sometimes things get rowdy.)

As you’re doing research online, whether you’re looking at free conference call apps or paid ones, check out what kind of call protection or security the app offers and do your research on past data breaches. 

4. How flexible does the app need to be? 

Free conference call apps aren’t always the most flexible tools on the market. Do you want something that gives you the opportunity to grow or upgrade if you find you need more features or services? 

Look for a free app with bigger plans, longer time limits, or other upgrades so that if you decide a free app isn’t right for you, you don’t have to start from square one. Starting with an app that has the flexibility to offer you more features when you need them can help you save a ton of time later (no need to retrain your staff or start the research process all over again). 

Think about what you might need in the future before you decide on an app. What features are important to you? How big do you see your team (and client base) getting? What budget might you be comfortable with? Answering these questions before you have to pay can help make sure you’re making a decision that will work for you months—even years into the future. 

4 free conference call apps

So, which free conference call app is right for you? Let’s take a look at five of the best—including who they’re right for, where they’re strongest, and what they might be lacking. 

1. tops our list because it’s a completely free option that offers video conferencing for a large number of participants without the price tag usually associated with high volume calls. It’s a no-cost option with room for up to 1,000 participants. 

While most features are available online, there are mobile apps for iOS and Android available for users on the go. There are also clear upgrade options and toll-free calling—available for a fee.

Best for small businesses that… 

… need to host large meetings but aren’t ready to commit to a fee. conference app

Where is it lacking? 

Compared to other tools, has been known to have some quality issues in sound and video. It also only offers one line and has the perception of being “cheap”—something you don’t want to appear when connecting with clients! 

2. Microsoft Teams 

Like Slack, Microsoft Teams is a  commonly used collaboration tool that helps teams stay in touch with colleagues and customers, but it’s part of the larger Microsoft ecosystem so it connects seamlessly with other apps like Outlook and Calendar. 

The free version of Microsoft Teams offers features like unlimited chat, communication and collaboration with up to 500k, screen sharing, and guest access. 

Microsoft Teams conference call app

Best for small businesses that… 

… already use Microsoft tools and apps. 

Where is it lacking?

Microsoft Team shines—when it works with other Office apps. But if your business isn’t already fully using that ecosystem, Teams can feel clunky. If you’re not looking to change all of your processes over to Microsoft, Teams might not meet your needs. 

3. UberConference 

UberConference is a free video conferencing service with no PINs and no downloads—making it easy for you and your guests to join a conference call at any time. By removing the barriers that make online calls frustrating, UberConference makes working from anywhere simple. 

UberConference conference call app

They also offer relatively affordable premium tiers, so scaling up is easy when the time comes. 

Best for small businesses that…

… want to give a free app a shot before investing. 

Where is it lacking? 

UberConference’s free service is limited. At their free-level, you’re restricted to a 45-minute time limit and you can only host up to 10 participants. While this might be fine for some small businesses, it’s easy to outgrow this free conference call option. 

4. Zoom

Zoom is another popular conference call app, offering a decent amount of features for a free tier. Using the Personal Meeting option, you can host up to 100 participants, unlimited one-to-one meetings, and an unlimited number of meetings. 

zoom conference call app

You can also screenshare and add virtual backgrounds. 

Best for small businesses that… 

… include only a handful of users and want access to features without the price tag. 

Where is it lacking? 

While Zoom is a more comprehensive app in their premium levels, their free app is quite limited. Even with unlimited one-to-one meetings, you’re limited to just 40 minutes on group meetings and you can only host one meeting at a time—which won’t work for larger teams. 

Frequently asked questions about free conference call apps

What is the best free conference call app? 

The right free conference call app for you depends on your organization’s unique needs. Although free conference call apps can allow you to get in touch with people all around the world, free apps usually have some limitations. In order to determine the right free conference call app for your business, you need to weigh which features are most important to your conversations. 

Are free conference call apps really free? 

For the most part! (Although they’re usually more limited.) Most free conference call apps require you to pay for premium features or upgrade to get access to all the benefits. However, free conference call apps can provide you with the basic call features to get in touch. 

Is a free conference call app right for my business? 

It depends. While free conference call apps certainly have their place, they’re mostly geared towards personal or entrepreneurs use. In other words, if you have a larger team that needs to connect on a regular basis, a free app may not be suitable for your business. 

Are free conference call apps free for guests? 

Most free conference call apps won’t charge guests for participating, but who you can invite to a conference call may be limited. Certain apps only allow you to connect with people within your company or who you’ve added to your team. Just be aware of these limitations before choosing a free conference call app. 

What features do free conference call apps offer? 

Features offered for free will depend on the app you choose. However, most free apps aren’t going to offer the same features associated with premium versions. While free apps typically offer video conferencing or screen sharing, you might need to subscribe to a paid plan to gain access to features like analytics or to host larger groups. 


Originally published Jul 01, 2020, updated Jul 21, 2021

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