Intro

Everybody’s going live these days. If you want to jump on the live video bandwagon and actually attract viewers, you’ll need standout content. The tools you use to create your live broadcasts have just as much of an impact on audience engagement as the content itself. That’s why choosing the best live streaming app is crucial.

Live streaming is so popular right now that there are countless apps to choose from that stream live video. This guide covers what you should look for in live streaming video apps and the 11 best ones — free and paid.

trophy
Easy live streaming for everyone
Run professional live streams from your browser.
Get Started

👀 What is a live streaming app?

A live streaming app lets you record, broadcast, watch and share videos in real time. The features included with live streaming differ from app to app, with some offering more than others. Generally, a live streaming app lets viewers find and follow content creators or channels and has live comments on streams, which other viewers and the person broadcasting can see.

You can find live videos on just about any topic and in nearly any format. They can be as simple as one person talking into the camera or as complex as a multiday online event. Influencers, entrepreneurs, marketers, gamers, journalists, CEOs, hobbyists, podcasters and a whole host of other people use live streaming apps to spread their message and connect with others.

Live streaming has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, leading to an abundance of apps for creating and sharing live video. Most major social media platforms have live streaming functionalities, while some apps have been created specifically for broadcasting live video.

🤔 How to choose a live streaming app

If you want viewers to have the best experience watching your broadcast, the live streaming app you choose should have these main features.

Adaptive bitrate streaming

Not all your viewers will have a strong internet connection and those that don’t will experience a lot of buffering without adaptive bitrate streaming. Apps with this feature can deliver your live video at varying bitrates based on the viewer’s internet speed.

HTML5 video player

The HTML5 video player is the most widely used video player technology in apps and on the web today. It replaced Adobe Flash Player to become the best video player for all devices and all browsers. So no matter what your viewers are using to watch your live streams, they’ll be able to access it.

Transcoding

Transcoding allows the same video to be played on an end platform in a different resolution or with modifications made from the original. If you are streaming video at 1080p, for example, your live streaming app should be able to transcode your video and downgrade it to 720p so it’s playable for people with slower internet. Read more about what transcoding is and how to use it as a streamer in our guide.

HLS protocol

HLS stands for “HTTP Live Streaming” and it’s how visual and audio media is delivered over the internet in a fast and reliable way. It works with HTML5 video players as well, so it’s definitely something your live streaming app should have.

RTMP

To make sure the video captured by your camera is encoded into the proper digital format, you need a live streaming app that supports RTMP (Real-Time Messaging Protocol). This video protocol is the most widely used for broadcasting live video online.

In addition to the main functionalities above, you should also consider the following features when choosing a live streaming app:

  • Mobile support: If you plan to go live from your smartphone, you’ll need an app that supports mobile streaming. Many apps support both desktop and mobile streaming, but some offer only one or the other.
  • Overall UI design: When you open the app, does the design feel clunky? Is it difficult to find what you’re looking for, forcing you to read through the help documentation?
  • Donation system: Monetization features may not be important to you when you’re starting out, but you might decide to try and earn some revenue from live streaming down the road.
  • Video quality: Some apps let you stream with a higher-quality video, like 4K, while others are limited to 1080p.
  • Video effects and customization: Can you add graphics, a background and overlays to your stream within the app? Does it support split-screen streaming or screen sharing as well?
  • Comments and sharing: If your goal is engagement, there should be a way for viewers to comment on your live videos in real time, typically with a live chat. Giving viewers the ability to share your videos with other users on the app is also important for building a community.
  • Multistreaming: Some live streaming apps are designed to let you go live on multiple websites at one time, also known as multistreaming. If you want your live videos to appear in more than one place while you’re broadcasting, you need an app that supports this feature.

🔥 The 11 best live streaming apps

The following 11 apps are the best ones available today for live streaming, as they include most of the features outlined above. Some apps are free to use, while others have free versions and paid options.

1. YouTube Live

YouTube is probably one of the first apps that come to mind when you think about live streaming. It’s well-known and has a massive user base. You can stream on YouTube on desktop or mobile, with or without streaming software (also called an encoder). It’s a generalist platform so streamers of all types can find an audience on YouTube as well. Beginner streamers can get started easily, but there are also plenty of features for advanced streamers too.

Pros

  • Powerful video analytics
  • Archive previous streams or publish them to your channel
  • Live chat with moderation tools
  • Monetization options with Super Chat, Chat Stickers and channel memberships
  • Sends notifications to your subscribers when you go live

Cons

  • Can be difficult to get noticed on such a large platform
  • Need 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time to qualify for monetization options
  • Need 1,000 subscribers to live stream on mobile

Use cases

  • Live events and concerts
  • Webinars
  • Gaming
  • Product launches
  • Interviews
  • Live vlogs
  • Tutorials and workshops
  • Just about anything, really

Desktop or mobile?

  • Both

2. Facebook Live

Facebook is a good app to go live on if you already have an audience on the social platform. With the Live Producer, you can stream directly from Facebook on desktop. You can also use an encoder or stream from mobile. It’s free to live stream on Facebook, and you can go live on a personal profile, page or in a group. Facebook also offers donation and monetization options for content creators.

Pros

  • Facebook followers get a notification when you go live
  • Chat moderation tools
  • No restrictions for streaming on mobile
  • Real-time analytics

Cons

  • Maximum video length is 90 minutes
  • Old Facebook Live videos don’t appear in search engine results
  • No 4K streaming

Use cases

  • Customer Q&As
  • Product launches
  • Interviews
  • Gaming
  • Behind-the-scenes look
  • Live events

Desktop or mobile?

  • Both

3. Instagram Live

Instagram was one of the first social media platforms to offer real-time video and is now a popular choice for mobile live streaming. You can integrate your Instagram account with your Facebook profile or page so that your live stream will also appear on Facebook. Any of your active followers will receive a notification once you go live and your video will appear at the beginning of their Stories if they missed the initial broadcast.

Pros

  • Instagram Stories playback for missed live streams
  • Cross-post on Facebook
  • Interactive videos with real-time comments thread
  • Open to all Instagram users

Cons

  • Monetization (Instagram Badges) only available to U.S.-based creators and in some other countries by invite-only
  • Mobile streaming only

Use cases

  • Live vlog
  • Q&A
  • Tutorial
  • Live event
  • Product unboxing
  • Product reviews

Desktop or mobile?

  • Mobile

4. Twitch

Twitch is one of the most popular sites for live streaming out there, but it’s focused largely on gaming and tech. In the last few years, creators from other niches have managed to build audiences as well, but the platform is still known as a gaming platform. Twitch offers several ways for creators to monetize their content and has a robust live chatting feature for viewers and streamers to interact in real time.

Pros

  • Well-known and widely used platform with huge audience potential
  • Long-term revenue potential with subscriptions
  • Users can follow or subscribe to their favorite channels

Cons

  • Monetization only offered to Twitch Affiliates
  • Huge user base makes it hard to gain exposure as a new streamer

Use cases

  • Gaming
  • Esports tournaments
  • Talk show or live podcast
  • Arts and crafts streams
  • ASMR
  • Contests and giveaways

Desktop or mobile?

  • Both

5. TikTok

The short-form video sharing app TikTok has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years and introduced live streaming so creators could connect with viewers in real time. Since streaming is still a relatively new functionality for TikTok, you need 1,000 followers to be able to live stream on TikTok. One of the key benefits of TikTok is the suggestion algorithm, which shows your stream to users who aren’t already following you.

Pros

  • Monetization options available
  • Highly customizable live streams with video filters, effects and frames
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Strict community guidelines make it hard to get content approval sometimes
  • Difficult to carve out an audience with lots of creators and content already on the platform
  • Live videos have a 60-minute time limit

Use cases

  • Viral videos about politics, fashion and music
  • Commentary or “hot takes” on trending topics
  • Live shopping
  • How-to demos
  • Ask Me Anything (AMA) streams
  • Games and contests

Desktop or mobile?

  • Mobile

6. Restream

Go live directly from a web browser on your computer or phone using Restream Studio. We offer cloud-based live streaming so you won’t use up a bunch of resources on your device. You can add custom graphics and backgrounds to your stream, add guests with a simple join link, stream pre-recorded videos, and even go live on multiple platforms at once.

Pros

  • Multistream to several platforms
  • Upload and stream pre-recorded videos
  • Add up to 10 guests to a stream
  • Create custom graphics and branding
  • Store old live streams in the cloud
  • Aggregated live streaming stats

Use cases

  • Live events
  • Workshops and tutorials
  • Online classes
  • Product launches
  • Interviews and Q&As
  • Contests and giveaways
  • Worship services

Desktop or mobile?

  • Both
mic
elements cta
Your live streaming companion
simple, professional, reliable
Get Started

7. Wirecast Go

Wirecast is a well-known encoding software that helps streamers go live from a desktop or laptop computer. Wirecast Go is their mobile streaming app, which lets you run a live broadcast from your phone. You can switch between live and pre-recorded shots, add custom branding, and stream to YouTube and RTMP servers. There’s also a live chat feature to interact with viewers during the stream.

Pros

  • Stream in landscape or portrait mode
  • Replay live broadcast highlights
  • Add other iOS camera sources on your Wi-Fi network for multi-camera streaming

Cons

  • Only available on iOS
  • You have to pay for premium features

Use cases

  • Live events and performances
  • Interviews or Q&As
  • Workshops and tutorials
  • Product launches

Desktop or mobile?

  • Mobile

8. Tango

Tango started as an app for calling and messaging but started offering live streaming in 2017. The app has a social focus and makes finding and meeting new people or connecting with friends easy to do with live video. Collaboration streams are popular, as is playing interactive games with streamers. It also has monetization and allows viewers to send gifts to streamers.

Pros

  • Robust engagement and community-building tools
  • Content spans several industries
  • Easy to do collaboration streams

Cons

  • A lot of reports of technical glitches
  • Earning potential is much lower than other live streaming apps

Desktop or mobile?

  • Mobile

Price

  • Free

9. Switcher Studio

Switcher Studio is a live streaming app designed for creators who want to capture and broadcast footage in the field or on the go. It has picture-in-picture streaming and split-screen layouts, live editing features, and can be used with a multi-camera feed. You can also store your brand assets in the cloud so they’re saved each time you stream.

Pros

  • Customizable stream with text and graphics
  • Editing in real time
  • Mobile streaming with no extra equipment necessary
  • Embed your live video on your own URL

Cons

  • Only available for iOS and iPadOS
  • No instant replay for sports

Use cases

  • Live sporting events
  • Worship services
  • IRL streaming
  • Live news coverage
  • Interviews and Q&As

Desktop or mobile?

  • Mobile

Pricing

  • Studio: $49 monthly
  • Business: $99 monthly

10. Dacast

Dacast is a video hosting and live streaming app for businesses with strong security features and analytics. It also offers white labeling so you can set up your own branded video player as well as stream to social platforms. No matter which tier you pay for, you get unlimited streams and unlimited concurrent viewers, as well as a live countdown.

Pros

  • Ads and monetization options available
  • Stream in 1080p
  • Video hosting

Cons

  • Somewhat clunky UI
  • Analytics are not fully available on the Starter plan

Use cases

  • Live events and conferences
  • Webinars
  • Interviews and Q&As
  • Online classes
  • Pay-per-view broadcasts

Desktop or mobile?

  • Both

Pricing

  • Starter: $33 monthly
  • Event: $63 monthly
  • Scale: $166 monthly

11. Larix Broadcaster

Larix Broadcaster is a mobile app for live streaming, with both RTMP and RTSP publishing. It includes a variety of streaming destinations, such as YouTube Live and Twitch, that you can stream to simultaneously. It also supports adaptive bitrate streaming and even has an audio-only capture mode. Larix Broadcaster also integrates with Restream so you can send your stream to Restream Studio.

Pros

  • Free
  • Easy-to-use UX
  • Front and back camera hot switch
  • Locked portrait or landscape mode
  • Overlays with text, images layers, web widgets and timestamps

Cons

  • Limited stream analytics

Use cases

  • Virtual events
  • IRL streaming
  • Online classes
  • Sports streaming
  • Worship services

Desktop or mobile?

  • Mobile

Pricing

  • Free

Wrap-up

Finding the right live streaming app may take some trial and error. Any one of the options on this list will get you off to a good start, but their features vary. Having a good idea of the content you want to stream and the audience you want to stream to will help you decide on the best live streaming app for you.