Gone are the days when snail mail, telegram, and expensive long-distance telephone calls were the only means to bridge remote gaps. As a child back in the ’80s, I remember that I wouldn’t hear from my seafarer dad until his ship docks so he could make a phone call or a colleague disembarks so he could send a snail mail. If you were a remote worker back then, you’re on your own, and long-distance communication would have to wait.
Today’s generation benefits a lot from technological advancement. Snail mail and telegram evolved into e-mail while phone calls are done over your choice of communication app. There is even text messaging, chat, and video conferencing so working remotely and coordinating tasks with your team members from all over the world are easy breezy. Even documents can now be sent over the internet with a click of a button— no more excuse for missing project deadlines. In this article, I will list down the best communication apps that connect remote teams wherever they may be.
Back in the early 2000’s when Facebook was gaining worldwide popularity, Mark Zuckerberg’s company started developing a chat feature to further connect its members. Facebook Chat was born in 2008 and a stand-alone app was launched in 2011. From being a simple instant messaging platform, it is now one of the best tools for communicating personally or professionally.
As a Facebook integration, Messenger is best for content-sharing and interactive gameplay besides instant messaging. Moods are better expressed using a collection of emojis and customizable avatars. Recently, the app launched Soundmojis, a set of emojis with accompanying sound effects. What I also like about Messenger is its ability to send photos by batch. This way you can easily skim through multiple photos and skip the ones that don’t interest you.
Founded by former Yahoo employees, WhatsApp was initially released in 2009 as a simple text messaging app. Now it is one of the most downloaded communication platforms that allow instant messaging, calls, and content-sharing. To use the app, there is no password required but a phone number is needed to register.
Playing with the catchphrase “what’s up,” this tool allows users to update their status to show what they are doing or feeling. The wallpaper can also be personalized, a feature that is absent in most of the other apps. If you want to keep a record of your conversations, there is an option to export chat.
Launched in 2010, Viber was formed to address the problem of expensive long-distance calls between the founder Talmon Marco and his girlfriend. Over the years, it developed advanced features to keep up with the fast-paced industry and market competitors. In 2014, Japanese company Rakuten bought Viber Media to become one of the most well-known messaging apps in the market.
Like WhatsApp, Viber is dependent on phone numbers for registration. What makes it stand out is the Viber Out function where users can make voice calls to non-Viber numbers. It also has a Sticker Store where free and paid stickers can be found.
I remember it was back in college when I first heard of Skype. Back then it was the go-to app if one wanted to see a loved one who lives overseas. Skype was highly praised for its high-quality video conferencing feature and no other platform could equal it at that time. Fast forward to twenty years after and it is still in the market, thriving amidst many competitors.
The shortcut of “Sky Peer to Peer,” Skype was the result of the combined effort of founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, and their Estonian colleagues who helped develop the software. Its success came in 2011 when giant Microsoft Corporation acquired it and, in 2017, the company partnered with PayPal for its paid features.
To access Skype, you need a Microsoft account to log in and a Skype ID is assigned. Users may be searched using this unique Skype ID. What I like about this app is that it lets you have a Skype number that allows regular mobile and landline callers to connect to your Skype. This is perfect for remote teams who need to be in touch even if one side has no internet connection.
Russian brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov launched Telegram in 2013 to become the most downloaded app in January 2021. Users can take advantage of its cloud-based features for free-– just register a phone number and enjoy unlimited chats, calls, and file-sharing.
Telegram boasts of top-notch security with its end-to-end encryption especially seen in Secret Chat. Interestingly, Secret Chat allows users to set a timer for self-destructing messages. They leave no trace in the Telegram space after deletion.
The app also accommodates huge communities through channels. Remote managers may course their announcements to the whole team by creating a channel where only the admin is allowed to post. Channel subscribers are unlimited making it a good venue to deliver bulk messages.
When I first used Slack, I find its interface confusing and redundant because there are many different modes to communicate through. For example, when a teammate mentions you, the message appears under Threads and also under Mentions & Reactions. There is also Slack Connect, which functions as a paid version of Channels to connect users with persons outside the team. And while all these were made for different intentions, there is Direct Messaging, which is the most basic and simplest feature of the app.
Launched in 2013, Slack stands for “Searchable Logs of All Conversation and Knowledge.” It focuses on workspaces and workflows to provide ease of communication among team members and users outside of the organization. While I personally get confused with Slack’s interface and functionality, many users like the way it divides groups based on topic, activity, and level of privacy.
For efficiency, Slack allows for integration with widely-used business apps like Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Dropbox. Shortcuts may also be created to easily access Google Calendar, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams.
Google Chat and Google Meet
Formerly known as Google Hangouts, Google Chat and Google Meet are the two new updates found in Google Workspace. I love Google Chat because it is simple, direct, and conveniently accessible through Gmail so that instead of sending an email, which might take a while to get a reply, I can instantly chat with another user for urgent matters.
Google Meet, on the other hand, is a video-conferencing app that accommodates guests through an invite link regardless of whether they have a Google account or not. It is free and schedules can be set in Google Calendar.
Unbeknownst to many, this popular video-conferencing app has been around since 2011 when former Cisco executive Eric Yuan founded Zoom Video Communications, Inc. It had been silently undergoing improvement through the years in what seemed to be a preparation for its boom during the COVID-19 pandemic. When the whole world was locked down in 2020, schools and businesses resorted to a huge number of Zoom meetings every day registering millions of downloads and daily users worldwide.
Zoom is straightforward. It has a minimalist interface with direct-to-the-point options and commands. It is available for free and participants may join through a password-protected invite link. The app empowers the meeting host to manage participants by controlling the microphone mute and screen-sharing functions. Breakout Rooms, which divides participants into smaller groups for a more focused discussion, is a stand-out feature of Zoom.
An overview of all these communication apps is not enough to discover what they can or cannot do. Go on, explore, and find the ones that work best not only for you but, most importantly, for the rest of your remote team.
Written By: Frances De Guzman