Wednesday, October 10, 2012

iMessage - A Real Game Changer.

I always knew that iMessage was a game changer, but I never really realized how much of a game changer it was until I traveled abroad.  During my travels, I had to turn off all cellular data and essentially use the iPhone as an expensive iPod, until I realized that a few apps would save me from ridiculous phone bills upon my return.

First, you should and must download SKYPE.  It is a necessity.  Without it, my phone calls back to the United States would have been over $1 per minute after all of the overage charges were assessed.  But iMessage, with its reliance on only WiFi*, which was available at a lot of the hotels, family homes and businesses made texting to and from many of the Caribbean and Atlantic Islands a real possibility.  Not only was it a wonderful addition to my armament, it was fast and free!   Although many in the Caribbean use an app called WhatsApp to deliver text messages, I was a little queasy about giving up my 500 member Contacts list to a third party developer while outside of the U.S.  What was nice was the fact that just about all of the people that I needed to contact carried iPhones.  It meant that even in small villages, I could still communicate quite easily with friends and family, as long as I had WiFi.  For those who did not have an iPhone, WhatsApp would have sufficed as well.

The wonderful thing about iMessage is its ability to be completely non discriminatory when it came to texting data.  I sent an 80 mbyte video easily to a family member during a diving trip without a hiccup.  And when I was ready, I used Skype to communicate with folks in London and New York.

Granted, I wasn't knee deep in the Amazon rain forest, for which this whole WiFi scenario would have been moot, but the Caribbean and Atlantic islands are immersed in intermittent WiFi - the quality of which is not equal unfortunately, but it affords a few free avenues of communication if you have a smart phone - and one particularly brilliant and flawless avenue if you have an iPhone.


Interestingly, for all of the chatter about Facetime on 3G/4G, I did not use it at all during my travels.  I don't know why, but it didn't really feel necessary.  Something I found rather interesting.  Perhaps not everyone is as interested in seeing you as much as they are in just talking to you.

*  Facetime was not available on 3G when I originally penned this article in August, 2012.

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