Texting across the ocean?
March 21, 2013 2:11 PM   Subscribe

My best friend is currently insanely busy. She is in the U.S and I am in Europe. Texting is the best way to stay in touch with her, but I need some help doing it across the Atlantic.

So, my best friend has a very small child and is in her first year of medical residency. She is working so hard right now and has such unpredictable hours that it is hard to schedule a phone/skype date with her. I am in Europe for the foreseeable future, but when I am in the U.S. it is easier to stay in touch with her because we can text when she happens to have a free moment. Is there a good, not-expensive way to text across the ocean? The advantages of texting are that she always has her phone on her (compared to sitting in front of a computer), and as long as the phone is on, she gets texts in real time (rather than having to first log onto a website like Facebook to check if she's got new messages).

Other relevant information: I have a non-smartphone, can call/text internationally relatively cheaply, and I have an internet connection at home that is relatively reliable. My friend has a smartphone, but I'm her only friend abroad, so she only has a national calling/texting plan, and I don't feel like I can ask her to spend a lot of money just to talk to me. She's currently so busy that asking her to set up anything complicated on her end means it probably just won't happen. I am not the most technologically advanced person ever, but I do alright with very specific instructions.

I'd be willing to spend a little money on this, if something existed like a gift card for 200 international text messages. Do you have any suggestions for what we can do?

I'm sorry if this sort of thing has been asked before. I've looked at some earlier questions about cell phones and texting from abroad, but I kept getting overwhelmed by all the details, and I really miss my friend.
posted by colfax to Technology (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My first thought is: get a number in her U.S. area code with Google Voice.
posted by radwolf76 at 2:16 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

I had friends in an overseas relationship set up two protected twitter accounts and tweet back and forth to each other. They were each other's only followers with those accounts so their tweets were private. You can post tweets from a non-smart cell phone via text and I am fairly certain that you can receive notifications with a full tweet to you via text as well - someone correct me on that if I'm wrong. If not, you can certainly read her tweets to you on your computer. I thought it was a pretty clever way to text back and forth without international rates.
posted by marshmallow peep at 2:20 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

Google Voice, definitely. You can even set it so text messages are delivered as e-mails rather than SMS, so she can get them on her smartphone without having to deal with text-message rates, and when she replies, the reply will be converted to a text message by Google and delivered to your phone.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:20 PM on March 21, 2013

Does your friend have a smartphone? Do you have any tablet type thing?
posted by jeather at 2:20 PM on March 21, 2013

I think your friend might be apple to use WhatsApp on her smartphone. My buddy who is working temporarily in Germany says everyone there uses it because regular SMS is so expensive.
posted by fieldtrip at 2:35 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

The problem is that the OP doesn't have a smartphone and hence couldn't use Whatsapp on her end. But there might be a workaround to that which would make Whatsapp a viable solution. For example, if you have a PC at home you could use an Android emulator to install Whatsapp on your computer, as described in this link (I have no personal experience with this). Then your friend could install Whatsapp on her phone (which is free) and you could chat from your computer to her phone. Would this be a viable solution for you?
posted by peacheater at 2:53 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had friends in an overseas relationship set up two protected twitter accounts and tweet back and forth to each other.

This is really good. If they both set up protected accounts from a computer and follow each other, they can then "Fast Follow" each other via sms. (Be sure to add your phone to your account first either in your profile settings or by following the instructions here.)

Once mobile following is set up, any time one of you tweets, the other will get a text. This means you don't even have to mention each other on Twitter, they way you normally would to get alerts. Functionally, texting to 40404 (Twitter's shortcode) from the US will be the same as texting your friend, and texting +447624800379 from the UK will be like texting you.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 3:25 PM on March 21, 2013

Are you definitely wanting to send via text vs her just receiving via text?

If you don't want to do the google voice thing and you just want her to receive a text you can ask her who her carrier is and see what their email to text format is. For example for Verizon if you email area code + phone number@vtext.com they get a text and replies go to your email.
posted by oneear at 4:42 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hi, thank you so much for all the answers so far. I looked at Google Voice once, but it seemed like I needed to be in the U.S. to set up a local phone number before using it abroad. Is that incorrect?
posted by colfax at 2:28 AM on March 22, 2013

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