I remember the first time I traveled abroad and how difficult it was to get in touch with my friends and family. In fact, it was pretty much a quick email if I had a chance to find an Internet cafe. Thankfully, those days are over.
Whether you’re frequently traveling, studying abroad or relocating to a different country, communicating with your nearest and dearest has never been easier thanks to Wi-Fi and apps you can download onto your smartphone. Not only do these apps work great, they’re also extremely affordable. As a continuation of my recent article Five Ways to Minimize Communication Costs While Traveling, here are some other helpful apps and services.
Initially released in 2010 as a text messaging app, WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014. Today, the app has more than 1 billion users, making it the most popular messaging app in the world.With WhatsApp, users can text, call and audio message friends and family directly from their smartphones for free. I used the app while traveling in Italy, and it works flawlessly. The sound quality for phone calls came through crystal clear. Another cool feature is the ability to join or create groups. For example, you could create a group containing just your friends so you can send out a single group message while traveling abroad.
Founded in 2004, Ooma is a Palo Alto-based telecommunications company that gives its users the power to make phone calls anywhere in the U.S. for free using your existing home phone and an internet connection. You can create a new phone number or port your existing phone number over for a one time fee. Ooma offers a number of affordable international calling plans for customers who have family and friends who live abroad. What’s more, if you are travelling abroad, you can use the Ooma app for iOS or Android to make phone calls to home using a WiFi connection. After making the initial one-time Ooma hardware purchase ($99.99 and available through www.ooma.com) you simply pay applicable monthly government taxes and fees, which range from $4-$7 depending on where you live. That’s less than the cost of your Netflix subscription.
Viber is a popular instant messaging and voice over IP app for smartphones and desktops that has been around since 2010. With VIber, users can exchange images and videos with or make phone calls to anyone in the world for free. The company also uses stickers and smileys as part of its messaging features. What makes Viber stand out, though, is that you don’t have to register to use it. Also, you can join public chats and meet new and exciting people, as well as stay on top of the latest news and gossip that interests you.
Because Skype has been around since 2003, it definitely feels as if it’s been in existence forever. In fact, if you’re a frequent traveler or work remotely, there’s probably a very strong chance you have used Skype at some point in your life. Besides being free and effective, Skype is primarily used for video chats, phone calls, instant messaging and video conferences. Users can also exchange documents and images with other users. If you have to make a call to a landline, Skype has low rates, usually around 2.3¢ per minute. There’s also a monthly plan starting at $6.99 per month if you make a lot of phone calls internationally.
Released in 2009, Tango is a messaging app that comes packed with features like video calling, texting and exchanging photos. Users can also send stickers, play games and add filters to make calls and messages more unique. In addition, Tango allows users to create groups so you can communicate easily with the people you care about most. But the standout feature that Tango offers is the ability to see who else is using the app in your proximity.