x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

App of the Week: Voxer's walkie-talkie calls are virtually free

Though technically a social-networking app, Voxer works basically like a virtually free, global high-tech walkie-talkie.

One minute doesn't sound like a lot of time. And a few dozen fils doesn't sound like a lot of money.

But when you put them in league with each other through a prepaid mobile phone account, they tend to congregate in the shadows and conspire against you until you're old and broke.

Consider this typical three-call conversation between my wife and I last weekend as we attempted to reunite in the mall for a movie (her words are in brackets):

"Hey. (Hey.) Where are you? (I'm coming.) OK, bye. (Bye.)" Sixty fils.

"Hey. (Hey). You said you are coming, where are you? (I'll be there.) You said that 15 minutes ago. The previews are starting. (OK, OK!) Bye. (Bye.)" Sixty fils.

"(Hey) What? (I'm in the theatre, where are you?) Third row from top - I'm the angry guy waving. (Oh, I see. Bye.) Bye." Sixty fils.

That's Dh1.80 total. Of course, you can call me penny wise and pound foolish, especially when you consider the Dh60 we wasted on Battle: Los Angeles. But each time I top off our mobile accounts with a few hundred dirhams, I realise that 90 per cent of my rented satellite time goes towards answering one simple question: where are you?

The app

Fortunately, there's Voxer (iPhone, Android coming soon), a smartphone app that offers a much better, and much cheaper, way to co-ordinate your co-ordinates. The free app is also free to use (or as free as we'll ever get on this earthly plane).

Though technically a social networking app, Voxer works more like a walkie-talkie, allowing users to exchange near real-time voice messages over a data network. Each "call" then costs no more than an e-mail and, also like an e-mail, works planet-wide.

The details

Like many apps, Voxer requires everyone to have Voxer to play, and not surprisingly, politely asks right away if it can gain access to your Facebook account - which you can refuse. But it makes things a bit easier by letting you invite anyone on your contact list to join in by downloading the app with a single tap.

After that, you simply hold down the "Hold and Talk" button walkie-talkie style (you'll forget to keep it held down the first few tries until muscle memory takes over) and speak. Once you let go, the person on the other end will get a push notification that opens the app on their end, allowing them to hear your message and respond instantly. A kind of two-way "radio transmission" can then go on for a minute or hours - it's up to you.

Tap the user icon on the left side and you can see your contact's GPS location. The app also allows you to send text and photos.

Using Voxer, daily exchanges between my wife and I, such as the one at the theatre last week, would cost us not Dh1.80, but a mere 4.5 fils or less, depending on our data plans.

In a few years we could save a bundle, perhaps even enough to see Battle: Los Angeles II.

Have some great personal finance apps that you want to share? Write to Curt Brandao at cbrandao@thenational.ae