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While on the road, staying in touch with family and friends can be a magic cure for the occasional exhaustion and loneliness of travel. Fortunately, smartphone app technology makes it increasingly easy to stay connected with your loved ones, no matter where you are in the world—and here, TPG Contributor Ryan Gargiulo shares his short list of the best telecommunications apps out there.
Skype. The best way to keep in touch with your loved ones back home when you’re on the road, Skype covers all the bases with live face-to-face video calls, group video calls (up to 25 people), voice calls (Skype-to-Skype or Skype to mobiles/landlines), Skype In Number, call forwarding, caller ID, voicemail, video and text messaging (SMS), file sharing—and a whole lot more.
While Skype-to-Skype voice and video calls are free, some of Skype’s features—like calls from Skype to mobile phones or landlines—are offered as premium services. If you’re looking to go the free route, simply have your family and friends install Skype on their computer, tablet or smartphone and you’ll be able to speak with them via voice or video chat for free no matter where you are in the world. That being said, with Skype’s international calling rates being so cheap, it’s really a no-brainer to load $10 dollars into your account for emergency calls to mobile phones and landlines back home.
Highlights: Smooth, seamless video and voice calling (as long as you have a solid Internet connection), dirt-cheap international call rates, the ability to purchase your own custom phone number, group video chat (up to 25 users) and file sharing.
Cost: FREE when it comes to making Skype-to Skype calls. Affordable international rates for those who make calls to family and friends who don’t have access to Skype.
Compatibility: Skype is available for Windows, MAC, Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, Nokia, and Windows smartphones. Also available on select televisions, Kindle Fire HD, Xbox One and more.
Whatsapp. The most popular cross-platform mobile messaging app in the world, with over 700 million active users and more than 30 billion messages being sent and received each day (as of Jan 2015), there’s no doubt that Whatsapp is the king of mobile messaging.
The beauty of using Whatsapp to send a message versus sending via traditional text messaging (SMS) is that you’re able to completely sidestep any and all charges that would normally be applied to messages sent via SMS. Yes, that’s right: sending and receiving texts, photos, videos and even audio recordings to your fellow Whatsapp users (worldwide) is absolutely free when using your phones Internet data plan or Wi-Fi connection.
Highlights: Audio recordings for when you’re too lazy to type, group chats and overall ease of use.
Cost: FREE for the first year and then $0.99 cents/year.
Compatibility: Whatsapp Messenger is available on Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, Nokia, and Windows smartphones.
Viber. With over 236 million monthly active users worldwide (as of 2015), Viber has proven itself to be a big time contender in the voice, video and messaging app arena. Viber can be used to send text, photo, video and voice messages and even current locations with friends. Creating group chats with up to 100 participants is made easy—although the idea of a 100 person group chat sounds quite hectic, to say the least. Viber-to-Viber calls are FREE to anyone in the world.
Viber has a premium pay-as-you-go service similar to Skype’s called Viber Out, which allows you to make both domestic and international calls to non-Viber users at extremely low rates. All you need to do is create a Viber account, load it with credit and you’re good to go.
Highlights: Ad-free calling and messaging over Wi-Fi/3G/4G, affordable international calling rates to non-Viber users.
Cost: FREE for Viber-to-Viber calls.
Compatibility: Viber is available for Windows, MAC, Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, Nokia, and Windows smartphones.
Skype Qik. First launched as a Silicon Valley startup back in 2007/2008, Qik allowed its users to record, upload and stream live videos from their mobile phones to the Internet. Skype acquired Qik back in 2011 and in October 2014 Skype announced the relaunch of Qik (now known as Skype Qik), a new social video-messaging app that seems to be trying to give Snapchat a run for its money.
With Skype Qik, you can create both private and group video chats by simply selecting friends from your phone’s address book. You can pre-record video clips called Qik Fliks (up to 5 seconds) and send them to your contacts when you’re strapped for time, or shoot short, spontaneous video messages of up to 40 seconds and send them to your contacts without ever having to login to the app (e.g., no usernames, passwords or Skype accounts necessary).
One of the more interesting features of Skype Qik is the ability to delete any video you’ve sent to chat at any time whether its been watched or not. By default, all videos that you send to friends expire and are automatically deleted after two weeks.
Highlights: Regret sending that last video? No worries, simply delete it from chat and act like it never happened.
Compatibility: Skype Qik is available on iOS, Android and Windows smartphones.
What are your favorite apps for keeping in touch on the road? Please let us know in the comments below.
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