Keeping in touch with friends and family back home isn’t a problem for travellers these days. Instead, it’s working out which of the countless international calling apps and communication apps are right for you. Today you can video chat, talk or text to your heart’s content using your own service provider’s global roaming package, by buying a local phone or sim card, or by turning off data and simply using wireless where available.
Whether you’re travelling, studying overseas, or working internationally, here’s a list of the main contenders that will help you keep in touch with everyone back home.
Missing one special person? Then Couple is an app for two people to keep all their moments private and make their memories last forever. The app allows you to make calls, exchange texts, express how you feel with video, audio, doodles, cute stickers and private photos. You can exchange to-do lists and set notifications on a shared calendar.
Want to stay in touch with more than one person? There are countless group chat apps available, but it’s still worth looking GroupMe, one of the early group communication apps. GroupMe helps you keep in touch with family, friends or co-workers all in the same place. Create groups, and then message, share photos and update locations to everyone within that group. Have a big family and need to stay in touch with them all? GroupMe makes that easy. The beauty of GroupMe is you can have up to 200 people in one group.
A group chat app with both audio and video calling is ooVoo. This is one of the best group facetime apps, with the ability to video call up to 12 people simultaneously. Add to that, ooVoo is free and works across all platforms. It’s no wonder it currently has 185 million users.
You might find that the best way to stay in touch with family is via a messaging platform normally reserved for work, such as Slack. While Slack is an excellent work collaboration and communication tool, its team spaces also work for personal communication. It supports video and audio calls, and has a free version as well as paid plans.
Staying in touch might mean more than instant messaging or video conferencing. Cloze is a CRM app that’s more like a personal assistant for your professional relationships. It will remind you to stay in touch. It pulls information from your other apps to automatically create one view of every person and company, plus all your phone calls together, emails, meetings, notes, files, social, and messages. Once everything’s in place, it will work out what’s important and remind you to contact people. Using your interactions and messages, Cloze identifies "Key People" and automatically surfaces updates from them.
Feel overwhelmed staying connected via numerous apps? That’s where FullContact comes in. Formerly known as Brewster, FullContact accesses all the social media you currently have and integrate all your contacts into one place. It gathers all your friends and acquaintances from places like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and using relationship technology, lets you know when you haven’t been in touch with someone for a while.
Owned by Japan giant, Rakuten, Viber connects 800 million users around the globe. The app instantly integrates with your contacts list and lets you text, call, send photo messages and share your location with other users. You can even use it as a walkie talkie if you and your friends want to go old school.
Just because you haven’t heard of an app doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. There are messaging apps that are hugely popular elsewhere in the world, such as Zalo, Telegram and QQ Mobile, which has users in 80 countries.
WeChat is China’s largest messaging app with 938 million active users. South Korea’s favourite multi platform messaging app is KakaoTalk, with 95% of smart phone owners in the country using it. In Japan, LINE began as a disaster response after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. It grew quickly. By early 2013 it had 100 million users. Today it has about 500 million users in Japan as well as Thailand, Indonesia and Taiwan. In Japan, it’s used by 92.8% of the country’s mobile messaging app users. So for anyone working or studying in Japan, Line is clearly the app to use.
While there are some exciting new and alternative contenders in the field of social messaging, there’s good reason to continue using old favourites such as Facetime, Hangouts, Skype, Snapchat and Whatsapp. Chances are, most people you know are contactable via one of these and stick with them due to familiarity and appealing upgrades.
Skype continues to have all the previous features, like the ability to share screens, photos, videos, documents, and files up to 300MB, plus newer additions like Mojis and emoticons, and ten languages in Skype translator.
Similar to Skype is Google Hangouts, with the added benefit of access via Gmail.
Members can initiate and participate in text, voice or video chats, either one-on-one or in a group, online or using the mobile app.
Snapchat is hugely popular. What began as a simple self-destructing photo and video sharing and messaging app is now one of the best ways to stay in touch for 166 million daily users, who send 3 billion snaps per day.
One billion people a day use Whatsapp to share personalized photos and videos, video call, and keep friends and family updated with their Status.
FaceTime is Apple's video and audio calling service, but only connects you to other iPhone, iPad or Mac users, which might be most people you know. With trustworthy favourites like these, even staying in touch with grandma will be easy.
Sometimes keeping in touch means more than using a free international texting app. Stay connected and involved with family and friends by contributing to gifts, events, and helping out when needed. Send money online securely, conveniently, and at a very low cost using the TransferWise app. Normal banks and money transfer services end up giving you poor exchange rates without ever telling you. With TransferWise, you’ll get the real exchange rate, the same one you find on Google and the same one big banks use to trade money among themselves on the global market. Which means you can send more money to your friends and family back home at the touch of a button, and keep a record of who you’ve sent money to.
Staying connected with family and friends is easier than ever, in every way.
Amanda Machado is a writer who has traveled the world, spending much of that time living nomadically. The daughter of immigrants to the US, her travels have...
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