Meet Amazon Chime! A solid alternative to Google Meet, Zoom, and the rest.
Chime was released a month before the Google Meet, five years later than Zoom. Irrespective of the heavy backing of Amazon Web Services (AWS), it could never make a mark among the top players.
And honestly, I was also skeptical about reviewing Chime, given that we have never used it.
Why bother when you’re already doing the job with widely accepted video conferencing platforms?
So is Amazon Chime any good? Does it have a free plan? Is it worth switching from Meet, Zoom, Teams, etc?
Put simply, yes, it’s good and has a free tier. And given the video quality, I guess trying Amazon Chime can’t be a bad idea.
And you just need a standard Amazon.com account to get started with the free Chime.
But we won’t restrict ourselves to just these one-liners.
On February 14, 2017, AWS released Chime. The objective was to offer an integrated audio and video meeting platform working great on big and small screens.
At present, it’s a solid business offering with excellent features catering to data security and providing an optimum meeting experience.
However, its free plan is enough for day-to-day personal use.
Let’s look at its free and paid features.
This is where you get the vanilla functionality, including attending meetings, joining using Alexa, hosting one-on-one meetings & sharing screens, etc.
Besides, a standard Amazon.com account gives you access to Chats, which works similar to business texting applications like Slack.
You can create groups, send invites, and share files to manage written communication at its best.
Amazon Chime chat rooms also support webhooks and bots.
Finally, it includes robust security with military-grade AES-256 bit encryption, user management, and the necessary admin controls.
So these were the primary features of the free subscription.
While the basic plan feels good at first glance, it has some inherent limitations, which Pro covers with a business subscription.
This comes with the additional ability to host team meetings (up to 250 participants), record, schedule, assign delegates, give meeting controls, etc.
Interestingly, Amazon Chime supports recording audio content only in .m4a format. And the recording turns into video (.mp4) for screen shares. However, as of now, there are no means to record attendees.
Chime pro lets you use conference rooms, create personalized meeting links, and opt for locked meetings helping private conversations.
Still, there are features like dial-in and call-me that incur additional charges. Here, the dial-in helps to join the ongoing meeting with a standard phone, and the call-me is where attendees are notified and continue the meetings from their smartphones.
The dial-in feature is also available with the base tier by paying additionally.
So that summarizes into:
|Chime Free||Chime Pro|
|Attending Meetings||Everything in Chime free|
|1-to-1 Hosting||Hosting Meetings (up to 250)|
|Chats, Voice (VoIP)||Recording & Scheduling|
|Screen Share||Delegation, Locked Meetings|
|Dial-in addon||Call-me addon and more|
This uses the economic public switched telephone networks (PSTN) to provide a substitute for conventional calling and texting.
Business calling is done with Amazon Chime desktop, mobile, and web applications. This also brings in the ability to call Chime meetings and other business callers for free.
As of this writing, you must be based in the United States to use Chime calling to over 100 countries.
Chime’s native applications are for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. Still, you can log on to use its web application.
I downloaded the Windows client and signed in with my standard Amazon account.
Notably, this image features Chime Pro, which comes as a complimentary 30-day free trial when you register.
So after the trial expires, Start an instant meeting in the Quick actions won’t work for more than one attendee unless you pay for the pro plan.
Join a meeting where you enter the meeting ID to hop on to an ongoing conversation.
Similarly, other options like Start a new message or Create a new chat room make way for texting where the admin or sender needs to add the recipient via email, name, or Chime-enabled phone numbers.
Viewing my contacts helps you invite teammates to interact later with you.
Scheduling a Meeting
If you’re habitual of setting meetings with Google Calendar, Scheduling a meeting with Chime may feel like a little task on its own.
First, you need to click Meetings in the top menu, then Schedule a meeting.
This takes you to these scheduling options, including generating ID, setting moderation, using in-room conference systems, and dial-ins.
Subsequently, it asks for your calendar application.
While it can handle Google and Outlook calendars easily, you need to paste some information twice to get it working with others.
So the scheduling finally completes once you add email@example.com and the pin+….. as attendees and paste or write the description.
Finally, your calendar is the best place to find all the scheduled events, and I couldn’t find it anywhere inside the Chime Windows client.
Rooms and Message
This is where you can add multiple people to chat and share files. In short, it’s a bare-bones texting application.
It supports emojis, quoting, and copying messages. However, there is no way to delete or undo whatever you write or share inside rooms. So everything is permanent till a specific room is deleted by its creator.
As already stated, this supports automation via webhooks and chatbots.
The message is similar to rooms, just that it works on a 1-to-1 basis for file sharing and chats.
And likewise, Rooms and Message will help you preserve every conversation, even if you delete a contact and re-add it afterward.
I use web applications wherever available. They are handy and help to avoid yet another install.
Amazon Chimes web interface is very similar to its native application.
You don’t miss out on anything exclusive. The left sidebar gives you whatever you can do from the left-out top menu of the native application.
Overall, there isn’t anything to complain about.
Video Quality Test
This is the crucial aspect that no video conferencing application can compromise. I started a test meeting and took sample screenshots on the other side to check how Chime’s video quality fares against Zoom and Google Meet.
Here are the results:
While there is no clear winner, I could see the Zebronics branding sharper with Chime than Zoom and Meet.
These were the outputs with the natural light coming from the side window. But, the most demanding situations are low-lit conditions, and that’s where the video algorithms are put to the test.
So, I closed that Window to gauge their performance in comparatively darker surroundings.
Here, the margins were substantial, announcing an excellent victory for Chime.
Notably, all hardware equipment was the same, and the tests were conducted closely without any noticeable difference in ambient light.
Finally, Chime’s superior video delivery should concern the present top two market players.
AWS pricing is one area that scares people. Not that its services are expensive, but the sheer complexity confuses most.
Here’s their price explainer video:
So, the free version is free, which becomes paid if you opt for the dial-in. And if you only attend meetings and never host them, the free version is all you need.
The pro version is priced at $3 per user per day to a maximum of $15 per user per month.
That means it makes no difference if a single person uses Chime pro for five days or months, as the bill is capped at $15.
The dial-in and call-me rates are region based, per the Chime pricing page.
Likewise, Business calling (for the US only) charges you per minute for inbound and outbound calls. And there are location-based rates for every sent text, while the received ones are free. Finally, Chime puts a fixed price per rented number per month for business calls, which is $1, as of this writing.
So this was a short review of Amazon Chime.
Simply put, the interface isn’t as smooth as Meet or Zoom. Yet, the video quality is something Chime rests its case with.
And since you are here, it’s a perfect occasion to tell you about Jitsi: a self-hosted, open-source video conferencing tool.