Let’s talk about some ways to make your iPhone and iPad useful in staying in touch with your customers, colleagues, friends and family. If you’re like most iPhone users, your phone is usually in your hand as you walk around during your day and your iPad is close by too. I want to share the apps and some of the time-saving tips I use every day to stay in touch.
Having your iPhone close at hand means you’re totally reachable. People can ‘touch’ you in many ways: a phone call, iMessage, SMS, FaceTime and email and using a great number of third-party communications programs too. For me, it’s important that I be location independent for my clients – that means that I’m reachable reliably and with high quality, regardless of my customer’s choice of contact method. So let’s talk about three categories: email, text messaging/chat and video chat.
Email on your iDevices is pretty straightforward. I have multiple email accounts, on my own domains and on Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook and iCloud, and all of them go to all of my devices. I maintain my location independence in email by making sure that my signatures are the same on all of my devices. So whether I send or reply from my desktop, iPad, iPhone or home computers, all of my mails look the same.
There are many app choices available for messaging and chat. On the iPhone, the native iMessage app sends messages to iPhones and iPads as well as non-Apple devices (hint: when you send a text message to another phone, if the message is blue, the recipient has an iOS device. If the message is green, the recipient has something else). In addition to sending text messages, iMessage allows you to send photos and videos right from the chat window, either from the camera or selected from your photo library or photo stream. If you record a voice memo on your phone, you can select the messaging app to send it. iMessage uses data to connect to other iOS devices and SMS units for messages to other phones.
There are two other chat programs I use that I’d like to tell you about. On my PC in the office, I have Google Talk running all the time so my clients (who are on my contact list) can message me quickly and easily. When I walk away from my desk, I continue to stay connected with Google Talk using Trillian on my phone. I’ve tried many Google Talk-compatible clients and I’ve found Trillian to be the easiest to use and the most stable. Trillian also supports other major chat programs so you can stay connected to all of them in one program. Trillian is free and supports AIM, Facebook Chat, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber, MySpace IM, Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo Messenger. There is also an adv-free version for $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year. When I log off my desktop Google Talk, my messages automatically go to my phone and the other party has no idea I’ve left my office. Messages sent with Trillian use data, not SMS.
The other messaging app I use often is WhatsApp Messenger. It’s a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS and is available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Windows Phones. You can send pictures and audio notes too with WhatsApp using your data plan and it is only $.99 in the App Store. I’ve found that WhatsApp is a good solution for those who have moved away from Blackberry and miss BBM.
For video, I have Skype running in my office for voice and video calls, as well as instant messaging; I have a microphone and camera at my desk. I also have Skype on my iPhone and iPad so staying in touch when I leave the office is seamless. Skype is a full function, robust communications system that allows you to send files, share your screen and have multi-person video calls. Discussing its vast capabilities is beyond the scope of this article and I encourage you to check out what it can do on skype.com. In its most basic form, Skype is free and there are versions for every mobile computing platform out there.
FaceTime from Apple works well when I have to communicate with other iOS device owners. FaceTime will work over Wi-Fi on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac and over cellular on iPhone and iPad. One cool feature is that if you’re speaking with somebody on your iPhone and they have a compatible device, you can tap the FaceTime icon and start a video call instantly. For me, I found that more people who I deal with have Skype so that program seems to work better for me.
Having all of these messaging programs does not have to mean you are always available to everybody all the time. One of my friends tells me that she does not want to be so reachable!
Remember that you can restrict how these programs contact you by setting the program’s options, changing your sound profiles and adjusting the “do not disturb” function on your device. You have the comm!