Four Great Mobile Apps for Keeping in Touch Back Home (and free talk time giveaway!)

When I studied abroad in 2005, my host family didn’t have internet. If I wanted to check in with my family back in Chicago, I’d have to walk down the street to the locutorio and buy credit for a pay phone.

Nine years later, Telefónica’s green and blue phone booths are but an icon of the past and everyone seems to be glued to their smartphones. Ever since breaking down and getting one in 2011, I’ve been able to keep in touch with my family and friends back home far more easily, sending photos and videos of the Feria de Abril to just about everyone in my contacts list!

If you’ve got a smart phone, you have a wealth of apps to help you connect with your loved ones (or just make them jealous of the cheap prices of wine):

Whatsapp

Whatsapp took Spain by storm a few years back, as it was one of the first free messaging services that used wi-fi or 3G for texting. 

To be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with Whatsapp. It’s so great on paper – texts, photo and video sharing, and you can even share your location. But nothing beats a phone call.

Anyway,  the first year is free, and then you have to start paying, but it’s worth it for group chats, sharing, and not freaking out at your phone bill!

Get it! Android | iOS

Postagram

As a proponent of still sending snail mail from time to time, I think postagram is fun and pretty much genius. This app allows you to send a picture right from your phone in real postcard form for the same price as it would cost to send it by mail yourself – you just save the trip to the post office (aka the waiting room of doom in Spain) and what you send is more personalized! What’s more, you get 140 characters – just like a tweet – to send a message.

Get it! Android | iOS

Snapchat

I have to admit that I love snap chat. Originally created (in my mind) for teens to send gross pictures of themselves, I love getting shots of my friends on coffee runs or in beer gardens, or of my niece, Bounder the Mutt.

What snapchat does is it sends 10-second videos or photos to the contact(s) of your choice, which are then deleted and take up no space in your phone’s memory. There’s also a new chat feature where you can hold down the record button and have some face time with your amiguitos back home.

Get it! Android | iOS

toolani 

Move over, Skype and Viber – toolani has just blown my mind. 

After struggling to hear my family on Skype because of a nagging delay and loads of dropped calls, I needed to look for a new way to do our weekly calls. Most Sundays, I’m out having lunch or at a Betis game, making it hard to coincide with my family. toolani works as a phone filter that doesn’t need an internet connection to make cheap international calls – dialing the US cost less than $0,02 a minute! 

With toolani, you can call and text about 150 countries, and your contacts are automatically loaded onto its server. The app also allows you to buy more credit easily.

Just last week I called my family to catch up for cheaper than calling their landlines, as well as shot the breeze with my friends at Jets Like Taxis, who are currently in Austria. Not only were the calls well-priced, but the call quality was top-notch, and there was no delay.

Giveaway!

I’ve partnered with toolani to bring you guys free talk time on their service. There are 100 free vouchers available for Sunshine and Siestas readers with the code toolsunshine. Download their free app and present the code at checkout, and you can talk with people around the world. 

The voucher code is available for you guys from today, May 16th, until Saturday, May 30th. toolani is compatible with both smartphones and iPhones in just about every corner of the globe!

If you like the service, consider connecting with toolani on Facebook or twitter, or surprising one of your friends back home with a call!

What other apps are on your phones?

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living among pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she wrangles babies at an English Language Academy and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.

Comments

  1. Nice rundown, and thanks for the mention! :)

    We use Whatsapp like crazy to connect with everyone near and far. A certain unnamed friend in Berlin refuses to get it – he’d rather message me on FB, which I of course hate – and it drives me insane. Arrrrgh!

    Interesting postcard app as well, we’ll have to check it out. We currently use Touchnote for that -> http://www.touchnote.com/
    Ryan from Jets Like Taxis recently posted..Next Stop: Vienna, AustriaMy Profile

  2. Neato! I love love all these apps, even more so while I’m in the US keeping in touch with friends in Germany. They are all cracking up with all the “Very Texas” snaps I’m sending. I also send my mom and grandmothers Postgrams all the time, they just think it’s the coolest thing! I will have to give Toolini a try, .02 is dang cheap!
    Alex, Speaking Denglish recently posted..MY FIRST TIME IN EUROPEMy Profile

  3. Kirstie says:

    Ooh, I haven’t used Postagram or Toolani! I use Google Hangouts to call home for free, but the connection quality isn’t always great, so I’ll have to give Toolani a try. Great promotion they’re doing!
    Kirstie recently posted..Ciao, Roma! Easter Week in ItalyMy Profile

    • Cat Gaa says:

      Would you believe I just used Google Hangouts for the first time? Not the best connection, and toolani is great when you’re on the move and not at your computer. Enjoy!

  4. Alicia says:

    Hi, these apps are indeed great for keeping in touch. Whatsapp, and also Facetime/iMessage are invaluable for me. I have also used Viber and Tango as a way to make free calls, but they aren’t as reliable as some of the others mentioned.
    I was interested to read about Toolani, which I hadn’t heard of and was keen to try. Not sure I am doing it right, but the promo code doesn’t seem to work?
    Alicia recently posted..Fresh milk? Get it from a vending machineMy Profile

    • Cat Gaa says:

      Hi Alicia, Have you tried downloading toolani and trying to enter the promo code once you go to top up? You should get an automatic credit from just downloading the app, and then you use the code ‘toolsunshine’ for the freebie. If not, I’d contact them – they’re experts! Enjoy!

      • Alicia says:

        Just tried it again, and it worked! Thanks, maybe there was a temporary blip. I look forward to trying it out!

  5. Thanks for sharing these great apps. I love discovering new ways to use my phone. It seems like there is an endless array of apps and it can be difficulty to select the best one.
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..My Stupid Mistake in Corcovado National Park, Costa RicaMy Profile

  6. What great apps! I love how staying in touch is so much easier now.
    wanderingeducators recently posted..A Girl AbroadMy Profile

  7. Great list of apps. Thanks!
    Lillie – @WorldLillie recently posted..Don’t Miss Boston’s Arboretum in Spring: Flower Heaven!My Profile

  8. Postagram looks super cool. It’s so nice to be able to easily stay in touch these days!
    Valen-Eating The Globe recently posted..5 Edinburgh Food and Drink Spots You Don’t Want To Miss (Including A Spot That Dares To Serve Whiskey That Isn’t Scottish)My Profile

  9. Thanks for sharing! We just reviewed a new travel app ourselves. There are lots of apps out there, but we always love learning new ways to make traveling – and keeping in touch- easier. Last time I was home all my friends insisted I get on snapchat. I’ve yet to do it, but I get why everyone loves it!
    Casey @ A Cruising Couple recently posted..Epiclist App Review | Adventure Travel Bucket List InspirationMy Profile

  10. Isn’t Snapchat in trouble now or something? I like Whatsapp though I don’t have it in my phone now. The internal memory is so small I can’t even install Twitter. #fail
    Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com recently posted..Of Trusting Strangers: 7 More Stories of Kindness on the RoadMy Profile

  11. Although we’ve gone native on Gran Canaria, we still like to keep in touch with family and friends in the UK. Some of these apps we already use. But thanks for telling us about the likes of toolani.
    Gran Canaria Local recently posted..Las RosasMy Profile

  12. Love the postcard one!
    Bethaney – Flashpacker Family recently posted..Another 40 Tips for Smarter, Better, Cheaper, Awesomer TravelMy Profile

  13. Micki says:

    Ah yes, I remember the days of having to plug away at a pay phone to make a call back home. I’m so glad we don’t have to do that anymore. Anyway, here’s a bit of a confession: I’ve never used Postagram – it looks like a great app; I’ll have to try it!
    Micki recently posted..Paris Roundup – The Best Things to Do, See and EatMy Profile

Trackbacks

  1. [...] On my first trip to Spain, Skype hadn’t been invented and many Spaniards didn’t have computers at home – I’d have to use phone cards or local Internet cafes to call home! Nowadays, technology has brought the world together through smartphones and broadband, and there are countless mobile apps for keeping in touch. [...]

  2. [...] before it was easy to keep in contact with my family through apps and widespread wi-fi, I sent letters. You know, those pieces of paper with handwritten notes on [...]

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