Upgrade your Marco Polo video chat app to HD for $5 a month

The video chat app is adding a subscription service with HD videos and more speed control and emoji.

Alison DeNisco Rayome Managing Editor
Managing Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome joined CNET in 2019, and is a member of the Home team. She is a co-lead of the CNET Tips and We Do the Math series, and manages the Home Tips series, testing out new hacks for cooking, cleaning and tinkering with all of the gadgets and appliances in your house. Alison was previously an editor at TechRepublic.
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Alison DeNisco Rayome
2 min read
Marco Polo

Amid coronavirus lockdowns and quarantines, video chat app Marco Polo saw a 16x increase in new signups and a 3x increase in activity. To aid in the increase in business costs, the free video chat app is adding a subscription service for users who want to upgrade their service.

The new subscription services, called Marco Polo Plus, includes HD video, and the ability to send voice-only messages and custom emojis. You'll also get more control with new speed settings (1.5x and 3x, along with the 2x already offered), a time scrubber and a scratchpad for personal notes. As a regular user, the notepad actually excites me the most -- the most difficult part of answering longer messages is remember everything the other person brought up in their message, so taking quick notes as reminders would be very helpful. 

Read more: 10 free Zoom alternative apps for video chats

Marco Polo Plus costs $5 per month with an annual subscription. You can try it free for seven days. If you do upgrade, you'll receive "Plus Passes" to share with family and friends for a free Plus membership. 

The Marco Polo app without the subscription will remain free, according to a company blog post. The company is also committed to keeping the app ad-free, it said. 

Marco Polo's advantage over competitors like Zoom, FaceTime and Google Hangouts is that you can send video messages whenever is convenient for you, without chatting live. And unlike Snapchat, Marco Polo saves all of your video messages so you can revisit conversations, and doesn't limit your video time. You can also add fun filters and voice effects if you want to mix up your conversations. 

You can send video messages to individuals or group chats, which the other parties can watch and respond to at their leisure. It's not the same as a direct back-and-forth conversation, but is a fun option for people who are on different schedules or time zones but still want some face-to-face chatting. 

Another way the company is monetizing is through a product called Channels by Marco Polo, a paid membership platform designed to help leaders, speakers, creators, fitness instructors and health and career coaches to connect with their audience remotely and get paid for doing their job. Channels remains in beta for now. 

"People lead busy lives, and it's so hard to find time to talk with friends or family, especially when we live in different time zones. We can't let social media updates and text replace real conversation, real connection," Vlada Bortnik, CEO and co-founder of Marco Polo, told CNET. "Marco Polo allows you to have meaningful conversations on your own terms, when it's convenient for you, thanks to our use of asynchronous video design." 

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