[App Friday] How Zoom has become the lifeline for those working from home due to coronavirus

With folks working from home to adhere to the new world order of social distancing due to coronavirus, we review video conferencing app Zoom, which has come to the rescue of businesses across the world.

20th Mar 2020
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With social distancing prescribed as the best way to curb the spread of coronavirus, companies are faced with an unprecedented challenge of ensuring it is business as usual even if everyone is working remotely. Now, businesses across the world are figuring out ways to stay connected with their employees who are working from their homes, and the solution for most of them has come in the form of Zoom (Zoom.us).


zoom.us


Known for its low latency superiority in the connection, the video conferencing app for virtual meetings and hangouts was gradually growing in terms of user traction in the Silicon Valley. Now, with the coronavirus outbreak disrupting work, and remote working becoming the new norm, the San Francisco-based company saw an overwhelming spike in its adoption, a development that was not anticipated even by the team.


The app is now trending at the top on Google Play Store, and has crossed 10 million downloads. Zoom is a publicly traded company on Nasdaq and headquartered in San Jose, California.


According to a CNBC report, Zoom.us has added more monthly active users (MAUs) in the first quarter of 2020, than it did from all of 2019. Bernstein Research said, "Zoom has added 3.5x more MAUs YTD (year to date) than the same period of 2019 (2.22 vs. 0.64 million), so even with half the normal paid user conversion rate, this would still yield 74 percent year-on-year growth in paid user adds YTD." 


Despite the falling markets, its increased adoption has resulted in Zoom Founder and CEO Eric Yuan adding $20 million to his net worth on Monday alone, his net worth went hitting $5.6 billion, keeping him at rank 274 on Bloomberg Billionaires Index.


In the year 2020 alone, the founder saw a spike of $2 billion in his fortune. The shares of the company have gone up by 0.4 percent, ramping up its YTD gain to 58 percent.


The app lets you do unlimited one-on-one meetings under its free plan, while group meetings are limited to 40 minutes.


However, Zoom has removed its 40-minute meeting limit on free basic accounts for schools and universities in Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, France, Ireland, Poland, Romania, South Korea, Japan, and Italy. Zoom stated that it will do the same on-request for K-12 schools in the US.


The startup also released a paid education plan that allows unlimited meetings for up to 300 people with the options of recording, transcription, and various other administrative controls.

So, we decided to explore the app and find out why it is all the rage right now:

Where to begin

Once you download the app, and if you have a meeting invitation waiting for you, you simply tap ‘join meeting’ on the sign-in page and then punch in the passcode/meeting ID. There are toggles for muting the audio and turning off the mic before joining the meeting.


Now if you want to use the app more extensively, beyond just joining meetings you have been invited to, then you can sign up by providing your name and email ID. A Zoom user can fill in basic work information about themselves, like department, job title, location, etc. 


You cannot use the app unless you verify your ID through an email confirmation step. Then, you can set your password (you can even add fingerprint IDing) and you are all set. 


The homepage is clutter-free and easy to use. Those who choose to create an account can create and schedule meetings of their own. This can all be done from the Zoom’s home screen, where you can start a new meeting, join one, or schedule a future meeting with guests of your choosing, or share your screen in a Zoom Room using a meeting ID. Any upcoming meetings you may have will be marked on your home screen with a reminder.

The meeting

The video quality is good and worked well on the home Wi-Fi as well as 4G mobile data. We are not aware if the quality is the same with lower data connections. 


By default, the app displays the active speaker. If one or more participants join the meeting, you will see a video thumbnail on the bottom-right corner. It looks like a nice collage if there are, say, 10 members.


The meeting checks all the boxes of an official in-person meeting, besides also allowing you to mute audio, mic, and video. You can share screen directly from your Android device, share photos, web and Google Drive, Dropbox or Box files, and easily invite phone, email, or company contacts even if they are not a Zoom user. 


You can share files directly from your phone during the meeting and use the whiteboarding feature on your phone by writing comments with your finger. A toolbar will appear with all the options for annotating - such as text, draw, arrow, and so on.


zoom



Zoom also lets you record calls as videos. You must choose whether to use the local or cloud option.

 

Zoom gives you the option to create break-out rooms for different people within the meetings and even add or remove members. Break-out rooms are separate sessions that you can break your Zoom meeting up into, and there can be up to 50 of them. Here, users will be able to meet in smaller groups with full audio and video capabilities and then come back together into the larger group whenever the host wants.

 

You can also send Zoom reactions like thumbs up or clapping hands to the meeting participants during the call by clicking on reactions in the meeting controls panel. The reaction will last for a few seconds. You can also change the skin tone of your emoticon by going to the settings.


The app lets you create recurring meetings. You can set the call settings you want once and they will apply for all your meetings. You can join calls by just tapping the meetings button on the home screen. 


All your private conversations with individuals and groups will be stored under the Chat tab at the bottom of your phone screen. You have the option of starring important chats, screenshot conversations, and even start a video call with whoever you were chatting with.


While we reviewed just the Android app, Zoom works on all the mobile devices, including ones running on Windows and iOS. Zoom allows you to be signed onto only one screen at a time. If you sign in to an additional device while logged in on another one of the same type, Zoom will log you out from the first device.

The verdict

Once you get the hang of the app, using it is a cinch and you will likely be interested in exploring more settings and features on the Zoom app and even the desktop versions. The next best step will be to explore the video settings, which has options for you to look groomed and office-ready (even if you just woke up!). While we could not find this feature on the app, it is available on the desktop version.


Overall, if you are going to work from home for some time (and it looks like that will be the case), then Zoom will make your collaborative work with teammates a lot more seamless with its easy-to-use video conferencing services and features.


We will recommend you try out the app, and purchase paid plans if required.


Until self-isolation and social distancing become a thing of the past, companies can urge their employees to take advantage of Zoom and its many features.



(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)

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