Microsoft Teams free friends & family video calls have a big advantage

Microsoft Teams is adding friends and family features, offering free audio and video calls as well as virtual environments to make catching up with socially-distanced relatives easier and more entertaining. Although already a mainstay of businesses, where Teams competes with platforms like Slack and Zoom, the Teams personal features include the ability to have a call that lasts a whole day without disconnects.

"You can meet with anyone in a 1:1 call and speak up to 24 hours for free," Microsoft explains. "For a group call (more than two people), you can meet with up to 100 participants and call up to 60 mins for free. We are waiving these limits in light of COVID-19 so that you can meet with up to 300 participants and speak up to 24 hours for free until further specified."

Meanwhile, the same Together mode that Teams offers for business and enterprise users is also being extended to personal calls and video chat. That effectively cuts out each person on the call, and pieces them together into a shared virtual environment. That includes a family lounge, a coffee shop, and a summer resort, Microsoft says.

Emoji reactions and GIFs are support as well, and Teams text chats are persistent so they aren't reset after each call finishes. Chats can be read and replied to via SMS, too, so that people without a PC, Mac, iOS, or Android device – such as, say, a grandparent with a big-button flip phone – can still be included.

There's also support for shared to-do lists and tasks within group chats, with the ability for everyone involved to add new tasks, assign them, and check them off when they've been completed. Messages from chats can be instantly converted into a task, too, such as adding things to shopping lists.

Later, polls support will be added. That will allow multiple possibilities to be voted on, and then the results can be converted into a group event or put onto a task list.

That, and every other shared detail in Teams, can be viewed in the chat's dashboard interface. That shows shared content like photos and videos, links, tasks, and group events, in addition to location of people with sharing turned on for that too. For those that use Teams for work, meanwhile, there's the ability to flip between different profiles for home and business accounts, so as to keep the two separate.

Teams personal features are available today, with a free account. All of the features bar polls are available now, with the voting system on the roadmap to be added later on.