When we consider the impact that smartphones have on relationships, all too often we’re discussing how they affect our romantic relationships and not those between our friends and family. And while smartphones have plenty of impact on family life, one way in which they have improved familial relationships is how they’ve allowed us to remain in touch even when we’re not together. Whether it be when one family member is traveling, or your entire family is widespread – either across one country or many – there are plenty of ways for us to remain in contact. Research has shown that 57% of people in the UK have a friend or family member that lives aboard, however, a number of them do not maintain contact due to time constraints and costs.
There are a whole range of cheap, and even free, services that allow family members to stay in touch regardless of where they are. So, to help make the separation easier, we’ve compiled a list of the best apps and services for keeping in touch with family members abroad.
By far the most well-known communication app, Skype can be used on your laptop or on your smartphone, so as long as you have a decent internet connection, you’ll be able to stay in touch. The app allows you to perform voice calls – like a tradition phone call but without the hefty international charges – or video calls depending on your availability. And the best part? It’s completely free! Group chat has also become free of charge on Skype, meaning that you can connect multiple users in the same conversation – so nobody has to miss out.
The only caveat is that, for Skype to mobile calling or SMS, you’ll have to pay a premium fee. However, this does not affect Skype-to-Skype calling or video chat on any device.
If you aren’t already using WhatsApp to communicate with friends and family in the UK, then how are you currently surviving?
Either way, WhatsApp is a great communication tools for those with family that live outside the country. Not only does it allow you to make voice and video calls free of charge (as long as you have an internet connection), you can also send as many text messages as you’d like, keeping the conversations with family members rolling indefinitely. However, WhatsApp’s best feature is its group chat, which allows you to group all of your foreign friends and family in one place, so you can all stay in touch at the same time. Or, if you prefer to keep things simple, you can divide your family up into several group chats so it’s easier to keep track of.
The only downside to WhatsApp is that it costs money to install. While it’s free-to-use for the first year, you’ll have to pay a yearly subscription of 99p thereafter – make sure you save up!
If you’re trying to contact a family member that doesn’t have a smartphone or corresponding app, Whistle is probably the best app for you. This allows you to make a free, 20-minute call to any landline or mobile number using your 4G or Wi-Fi connection – unlike Skype, your family member doesn’t need to have Whistle also. While the app is free to use for the first 20 minutes, you can recharge your call time by paying 99p for every 20 minutes after that.
It may not be as modern or connected as some of the other apps in this list, but if you have family members that live in roe remote part of the world, or they simply haven’t cottoned on to new technology, this is perfect for avoiding hefty phone charges.
Life360 is the perfect app for keeping tabs on the whole family – extended or otherwise. Essentially, the app allows you to track where every member of a group is on a map, so you can see what they’re up to at any time. There are also helpful symbols scattered near each avatar’s location, showing useful points such as hospital locations and indicators of recent criminal activity in a given area. All of this means that while you may not always be able to chat with your family, you can always make sure that they’re okay.
The app does have a group chat feature, which means you can contact your family members, however it doesn’t given you as much functionality as a basic messaging app might.
While these only scratch the surface of the available apps for families living abroad, there’s plenty here to ensure that you can stay in touch. So, if you’re finding it hard to maintain regular contact with the people you love that live aboard, maybe suggest that they get on their smartphones and download one of these helpful tools.