Friday, June 26, 2009

Mobile Phone vs. Google Voice vs. Skype

One of the things to consider when traveling and being away from home for a long period of time is staying in touch with friends and family. That's now a lot easier than it once was because even in less developed countries the internet is fairly accessible. Email will be a godsend when I'm finally off and exploring the world, and the blog is one extra way to stay in touch. But what happens when I get homesick and really need to hear a familiar voice?

My current cell phone is a quadband phone, meaning it can be used globally. I have to call my carrier, though, to find out what the rates and plans are. Just because my phone can be used, doesn't mean I should use it; it may be prohibitively expensive.

Next up is Google Voice. This is a new service that won't be offered to all users for another couple of weeks, but is essentially a way to access and make calls from your phone or the web. No software needs to be downloaded, but since this will still be new by the time I need it, there may be kinks to be worked out. Also, for all I know, it may only be available in the US; it's something I'll have to look into more.

Finally, there is Skype. Skype is essentially an internet phone service that allows users to call and chat for free, as long as they have downloaded the Skype software. I know people who use it and love it, but I don't know enough about it yet. One cool thing is that you can also video call for free which means that when I'm homesick I'll be able to hear and see the person on the other end. The problem? Downloading the software. I will be using public computers - not a personal one - so this could be a big issue.

Does anyone have any experience or input in this area?


  1. Public computers? Ack.
    Get a netbook. <$300 and under 3 lbs.

  2. Yah, I know. I said ack to public computers, too. But when you're backpacking and carrying all of your belongings with you, I don't know if it makes sense to 1) have something that valuable with you (yes, even an item that's only $300 is valuable in third world countries), and 2) add even 3 more lbs to my pack which will probably already be in the 25-30 lb range.

    Who knows? Maybe more research will show that a netbook is the best route, I just don't know yet.