Staying up-to-date with family, friends from college, friends from home and the friends you meet abroad can be tricky. Here are three ways to make it simpler:
Good for: Texting internationally
Drawbacks: Only available on smart phones, i.e. not functional on iPad or iPod Touch.
This app sets the standard for international texting, because it has a good user interface and is one of the most popular texting apps. Many of my European friends used this app to communicate with each other while abroad and in their home countries, because many companies will charge you per text. With WhatsApp, you pay to download the app, and then send messages using data or wifi. The drawback is that many Americans don’t take their smart phone abroad, because data is pricey and compatibility is iffy. Instead, this app has been great to text my international friends now that I am back home safe and sound with my iPhone.
Cost: $4.99 for the ad-free version, (But it’s “on sale” for $2.99 frequently in Apple’s app store). A free version with ads is also available.
Good for: Group texting, texting American numbers
Drawbacks: It doesn’t text to international numbers
This application which can be downloaded to smart phones, tablets and iPod Touches was the best way I found to text my friends back home. The app assigns you a U.S. phone number with the area code of your choosing (if you get the paid version). I then asked my friends to add this into their phone as a mobile number for me, and then had them change it back when I returned. This way, they could text me on-the-go and I’d receive their messages when I had wifi.
Cost: Free to video chat. You can purchase credit
Good for: Video chat, calling landline and cell phone numbers
Drawbacks: Good wifi connection is needed, There isn’t a number at which people can call you.
It’s no secret that Skype makes it easy to video chat–it’s a universally understood verb. But I found that Skype also had the cheapest per minute rates to call American cell phones and landlines. I was in the process of applying for several internships while abroad, so by purchasing a little Skype credit I was easily able to conduct phone interviews and make follow up calls. I also used it to get in touch with my family if I needed to tell them something and didn’t want to wait for them to check email.