CHEAPER CALLS

A company called “KnowRoaming” makes calls cheaper for international travelers by selling a $30 SIM card that automatically switches between providers to eliminate roaming fees. It’s thin and sits on top of your regular phone card, so you never have to take it out.

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BEYOND THE LANDLINE

We just read that landline phones will be phased out – meaning “cutoff” — in about five years. We’re ready, now that our cell phone is connected to a speaker that takes calls and plays music.

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MARRIED TO YOUR PHONE

One of the things we like best about our Samsung smart phone is not having a contract. We have a T-Mobile prepaid phone plan and can walk away any time. But what if you signed up for one of those multi-year contracts? You are married to your phone.

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ADDING PHONE SERVICE FROM A MENU

We won’t forget the time Joy racked up a $264 hotel phone bill for three hours of casual conversation with a girl friend. She’d run out of minutes on her smart phone, so she decided to switch to the hotel phone. A new phone plan from Virgin Mobile would have skipped that.

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SENDING SHORT VIDEO MESSAGES

“Qik” is a new Skype app is for sending short video messages to groups of friends. Skype was an early conduit for free video calls. Until now it was used mainly for long — 40 minutes or so — calls. Qik limits you to 42 second calls that don’t take up more than 5 megabytes of space on the recipient’s phone. It competes directly with WhatsApp and SnapChat.

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GLIDE ON

“Glide” is like Skype video calling but with a twist. When you tap “record,” you’re streaming live video, whether or not there’s anyone waiting at the other end. Videos can be up to five minutes and the service is free.

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GROUP MESSAGING

Remind101 — After a high school principal reminded us of the text messaging app “Group Me,” a teacher wrote with another suggestion: “Remind101.” This is free from Remind101.com and lets you send text messages to any group. They can’t reply. He just wanted to notify parents and teachers of events; he doesn’t really want to hear back.

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FREE GROUP CALLS ON SKYPE

Engaging in a Skype video chat with a group, where each person is in a different location, used to be part of their premium service. Now it’s free. To start, locate one of your friends on Skype. Then click the plus sign next to their name and choose “add people.” Start adding them and when you’re finished, click the call icon. For now, it works with PC, Mac and the Xbox One. Depending on the device, you can call people in three to 10 locations.

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A GOOD PHONE

We had two phones, a Jitterbug and a Galaxy S3, both made by Samsung. We lost the Jitterbug and relied for months on our smart phone alone. We bought a replacement Jitterbug, the Jitterbug Plus, and are glad to have it back. Here’s why: We like the big buttons and having a friendly, live-person operator. This last is a biggie. She will give you directions if you’re lost and put any new numbers you want into your phone list. Like a lonely librarian, they almost beg you to ask another question. The phone’s battery stand-by life is 25 days, whereas the Galaxy S3 needs charging nearly every day, even when we don’t use it. Of course, there’s always a big […]

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LEAVING A VIDEO MESSAGE

We’re not into video calling, but somebody must be. So we liked the idea of Skype’s new video messaging service. Rather than interrupt someone with a phone call, you can leave a video message. This service just came out of testing and is now available on computers and smart phones. To leave a video message, you and the other person have to be Skype users, which is free. Just click the plus sign next to their name in your contacts list to send a video message.

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Neal Marder Winston & Strawn