Five great communication apps for seafarers
Posted on 30 October 2017 by Nick Chubb
Going to sea means time away from friends and family. It can mean long periods of time without internet/email access and even longer periods of time without a phone call home. Calling or texting home from a mobile can be incredibly costly, but the cost of data worldwide is coming down all the time. When you do get an internet connection it’s incredibly important to spend some time catching up with friends and family so we’ve rounded up our five favourite communication apps for seafarers:
Let’s start with the world’s most popular messaging app. Whatsapp works on any phone with a valid number and can be used pretty much anywhere in the world as long as you have a data connection. It’s used by over 1billion people worldwide and all you need is the phone number you are trying to reach. Whatsapp is also secured with end to end encryption which is useful if you need to send anything sensitive to family back home.
Voice and video calling are blocked in some countries (eg. China, some Gulf states), but generally speaking it works well worldwide and is relatively low on bandwidth requirements.
Viber works on any device (including desktop devices) and is the most bandwidth-efficient platform when it comes to video calling. It’s completely free to call other Viber users and for a small fee, you can call real phone numbers internationally.
Facebook Messenger is the world’s second largest messaging platform. You can connect to any of your friends on Facebook and it too supports audio and video calling. Messenger is another app that is efficient with data and the sheer number of people who are on Facebook mean it’s likely most of the people you could want to contact will have an account.
Facebook is not always available in China, and when it is, it’s not fast enough for voice/video calling. If you regularly sail into Chinese ports it’s worth looking at other options as a backup.
With about 900million users WeChat is China’s answer to Whatsapp. WeChat has chat, audio/video calling and group video calling. Because it’s Chinese it’s not blocked in China (obviously), making it available all over the world and a great choice for seafarers who regularly sail there.
Skype is the oldest chat and calling service and is still popular among seafarers as it works well across all device types. It offers chat, audio/video calling, and for a fee allows you to call real phone numbers.
Skype is blocked in a few countries and uses a lot of bandwidth so is not great if you don’t have a stable connection.
No chat app is perfect, with different levels of bandwidth availability, local restrictions, or devices there is no one app that will work perfectly everywhere. We definitely recommend having at least a couple installed on your device so that you have a backup if the first one doesn’t work.
What have we missed? If you regularly go to sea and use a different chat app, let us know in the comments below.