I planned my first “work-while-traveling” week to perfection —or so I thought. At that time, I wasn’t even considering which would be the best communication apps for a location-independent entrepreneur. I focused on other things.
New laptop battery? Check.
Portable charger? Check.
Noise-canceling mic & headset? Check and check!
Cats safely left at my mom’s? Triple check!
Naturally, I made sure to pick a hotel with high-speed wi-fi, AND I called my mobile operator to turn on roaming 4G. But I wasn’t so concerned about that. I mean, I was heading to Düsseldorf, one of the crown jewels of the German tourism industry. How bad could it be?
Quite bad. Maybe it was the diaeresis, but that city DOES NOT like 4G. Oh, and the hotel wi-fi? That’s fake news.
But I was still ok. I could work primarily offline and use Slack to manage the team members of my remote news outlet: Thinkremote, Right? Nope. Turns out, not all communication apps are created equal, and Slack, while lovely on a super-duper internet connection, really chugs when you are at the mercy of drunken german roaming 4G.
After that debacle (for me, at any rate — mom spoiled the cats), it became apparent that if I wanted to travel and work, I would need to figure out the best communication apps for startup entrepreneurs.
What follows are my top three. There are many communication apps, but life is too short to go through one more “Top 666 Apps” article, so I cut the fat and present only the good stuff. You’re welcome!
The Best Communication Apps
Twist is my go-to tool for communicating with a team under bad internet conditions. Twist’s creators bill it as a “Slack” replacement, but I think it’s much better than that. It’s like an unholy three-way marriage between Slack, Email, and Forum/Bulletin Board.
I realize this description might make you imagine a cluttered, bloated mess. So let me follow up by saying it’s one of the cleanest and more organized communication apps I have ever used.
It is a pleasure to use, and it’s built with a prioritization toward asynchronous communication. Crucially, it’s also highly tolerant of sub-par internet connections.
The not-so-great thing about it is that it’s a bit too complex to use with, let’s say, clients if you are a freelancer. Slack is built for teams but has a relatively painless way to manage providers & clients. You can do it with Twist, but it’s trickier.
There is, by the way, something in common with all the apps I describe in this article. I focus on specialization, not on the breadth of features. When you travel, you want robust tools that perform in unexpected situations.
In real life, there’s the trusty Swiss knife — one device to rule them all. Turns out, inventing a tool like that is hard. (No wonder the Swiss are wealthy.) There’s no One Ring in the communication app world. It would be best to be comfortable with trading functionality for reliability in your pursuit of a location-independent lifestyle.
Sigh. I never thought I would ever recommend Skype for anything. But here we are. Skype is #2 in this list, but not because I think it’s excellent software. It’s not particularly intuitive nor (unlike Twist) a pleasure to use. I abhor messaging on Skype (or big brother Microsoft Teams).
So, why do I include it here?
All other apps in the video call space are atrocious over unreliable connections. Google Hangouts is a blurry mess that cuts off more often than Disney Channel 4K when 4teenagers are streaming from 3 different rooms.
Zoom? It’s better than it used to be pre-pandemic but still very hit-and-miss. Don’t even get me started on the phone-in performance.
Skype, for all its failings, has worked reliably during every one of my travels. I guess that sweet Microsoft moolah goes directly into good server infrastructure.
For when you need to see Bob’s face (or have them see you glaring at them because they forgot to drop the client’s files on Google Drive — what’s your problem, Bob?!) and spoil your new day of tropical adventure, Skype is what you need.
I love Telegram. I love it not only because it’s like WhatsApp minus the evil Zuckerbergian invasion of privacy — it uses encryption that works — but also because it never breaks.
I’ve taken essential calls with my team while walking by the sea on Telegram.
Heck, I routinely use it to go walking with the President and the VP of my company. Each of them is half a world away from me, but we all get on a Telegram audio call, put our walking face on, and GO! (Don’t go walking while on a video call. Trust me.) I don’t know how they do it, but this is a robust app.
As a nice bonus, it supports groups, recording and sending audio messages, and has the best repository of cat gifs ever. What more would you need?!
It All Comes Down To Reliability
Now you know what the three best communication apps for remote startup entrepreneurs are, but of course, that information might not be enough. Things are never that simple. You may work with a team with standardized tools, and they are not about to change them for you. Harsh, but fair.
If you’re in such a situation, you can still try to make a case for the team to adapt their apps. After all, the common trend between them is reliability.
They might not be as fully featured or as shiny as the market leaders, but they make up for it by not breaking the minute a seagull decides to commit suicide by chewing on the electrical wire.
Of course, if you are one of those lucky enough to lead a remote lifestyle while being their boss, then be sure to give these three apps a try. You’ll be surprised at how much more robust they are. Your clients will love you for it.
Author: Luis Magalhães is the founder and editor-in-chief at Think Remote.