Best way to stay in touch with family back in the States?
August 1, 2012 6:00 PM   Subscribe

Moving to Germany next year, how best to stay in touch with everyone back in the US?

So my employer has given me the opportunity to move to Frankfurt, Germany for two years; a move which, after some deliberation with friends and family, I have decided to accept. While the move isn't for several more months, I'm trying to get a jump on the details. As my girlfriend is probably staying behind in the States for work (at least for a while), one major concern is finding the best way to stay in touch with her - not to mention to keep up with the rest of my family.

Ideally, what I'd like is the ability to easily make calls/texts from Europe back to the States, (and vice-versa), just like I do now. I've used Skype in the past - it's great for PC-to-PC video communication and the "skype-out" feature is useful but there's no easy way to message people unless you're both logged in simultaneously.

I briefly looked into Viber today and it's starting to sound like the best bet. However, I'm a bit new to all this and have a few questions:

1. If I get a German SIM for my phone, will I be able to use Viber in other EU countries? Am I good anywhere, so long as I have an Internet connection? My new position entails a lot of regional travel, so I'll be spending a good portion of my time in surrounding countries (France, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, etc).

2. For those who have used Viber, any issues? If it matters, I have an old Galaxy S (but I'm considering upgrading to a Galaxy Nexus); girlfriend has a brand-new Verizon iPhone 4S.

3. I really like my current US number and am thinking of porting it to another service - either a prepaid US sim (for trips back to the States) or to Google Voice. Would Google Voice gain me anything used in conjunction with Viber? I'm not that familiar with GV but as I understand it can't be used overseas, nor can it (supposedly) forward to a non-US phone number.

4. Are there any better ways to do all this? Anything I'm forgetting?
posted by photo guy to Technology (3 answers total)
1. Your SIM card should have no bearing on Viber's operability. Viber is a hardware-independent app that relies on your phone's data/WiFi connection to make calls and texts. As long as you have the app installed, your contacts have the app installed, and you're connected to the Internet, it should work fine.

2. Never used Viber, sorry, but I've heard it works great as long as you can get your associates to use it.

3. You may need to go through an American VPN (cheap and easy) to use Google Voice, but it shouldn't be a problem other than that -- and you can text using Google Voice (or Gmail, for that matter) as well. If you have a US IP address (say, via a VPN) I'm pretty sure you could even make free US calls through Google Voice. (Anecdotal evidence suggests that you don't even need a VPN as long as you set your language preferences to US English.)

4. MagicJack Plus is another option. I have a friend in Europe who activated the account in the US, so it acts as a US number when he's making calls, even while abroad -- which means he doesn't pay anything beyond the $30 annual service fee to call people back home. He just needs an Internet connection. This only covers voice, though -- no SMS.
posted by GnomeChompsky at 7:00 PM on August 1, 2012

Before I moved, I converted my then-current US number to a Verizon prepaid account, which worked out, for a while, when I was going back-and-forth. On top of that, I got a Google Voice number which I linked to that. This way, people calling either of the two numbers got my GV account when I was abroad, or my phone when I was in the States. The Verizon account has since died, but my GVoice number remains functional, regardless.

2. I've also never heard of Viber. The fact that it restricts you to calling other Viber users is lame. But to answer question 1, yes, you'd be fine when you go to other countries. Look into packages like Vodafone World or EuroTraveller, so that you don't pay premium prices when not in Germany.

3. I haven't needed a VPN to use Google Voice from any computers. It's free, because I set it up with my American situation while in the States. This is awesome and very very handy for texting, calling, and being called. My calls from My Dutch smartphone would theoretically let me call via Google Voice, but because the handset itself is not linked to GV, I'd be paying. Texts from my phone via GVoice are free.

4. I, and many others, like WhatsApp for texting-like service.
posted by knile at 12:32 AM on August 2, 2012

I"m an Australian living in the UK.

- Normal SMS messages to overseas Mobiles is actually not that expensive. If text people independent of their country of location. If i'm not near a computer

- If I want to call, I use in this order of priority: a. Skype to Skype, b. skype to Phone, c. landline to landline. d. I wait till I get home - I just don't call people overseas from my mobile.

- for other Text-based messages I just use email, facebook or twitter.

I don't think there is anything I really wish I'd set up before leaving Australia. I've been gone for years though so I don't have my old Mobile number anymore and don't really care.
posted by mary8nne at 5:32 AM on August 2, 2012

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