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Not so long ago, all the rage in personal organisation was the Filofax. Inevitably as technology has advanced this gave rise to things like electronic diaries, and then PDAs (Personal Desktop Assistants) and of course more recently the smart phone. From my lecturing in Computing at The University of Northampton, I recall talking about the convergence of the three C's; Computers (including communications), Consumer electronics and Content! Instead of carrying a PDA, mobile phone, and laptop, all that functionality is now available in the smart phone, and even in smart watches! Our files, photos and communications including e-mail is always available to us regardless of which device we are using or where we are for that matter. For the main part, this works relatively seamlessly though requires some initial investment in time to set it all up just how you like it.

Reducing Costs

In today's economic climate, we are probably all concerned about what we spend on a regular basis; with the increasing costs of energy, fuel and groceries, many are looking to cut back on luxuries or at least minimise their costs.

Things like mobile phones are an obvious choice; particularly if you are still using your UK mobile phone here in Spain, though thankfully costs are coming down. However, if you are the proud owner of a smart phone, you may not have realised that you can make and receive calls using your Internet connection (or that of your local bar!) as well as 'text' messaging too thus saving on your mobile phone airtime charges. In order to do this all you need is a suitable app; the most popular seem to be Skype, Viber and WhatsApp, though there are plenty of others.

Skype

has been around for some time, now owned by Microsoft. It has mainly been used as a means of making and receiving calls using a desktop computer or laptop equipped with a microphone and speakers or a headset. Computer to computer calls are possible and of course free, but it is also possible to have a physical phone number to receive calls though the area codes are limited (for approx. €5 per month). If your friends are not on the Internet then you can still call them using Skype by purchasing dial-out credit to allow you to ring traditional telephone numbers too. On the technology side of things with a smart phone or computer equipped with a camera, you can also take advantage of video calling if both parties Internet connections are up to it.

Viber

Viber is similar to Skype though is more closely tied to your mobile phone number. There is a desktop/laptop version but you have to have already installed it to your mobile phone as you need a code to activate it from your phone. Any of your contacts that are using Viber will automatically show up in your Viber contacts and you can call them and text them without charge. Landline calls are also possible in a similar fashion to those with Skype.

WhatsApp

This one is quite popular amongst many of my contacts, and I've seen many businesses stating that they use WhatsApp too. It is however only a messaging application so doesn't offer telephone calls in the way that Skype and Viber do though you can record a message, video or send pictures. The app is free for the first year and then just $0.99 for each year thereafter.

Sipgate

If you still have a UK address, you could also sign up with Sipgate where you can take a UK landline number with practically any regional dialling code and link it up to your Smart Phone (no line rental!). This allows people to reach you on this number whether you are in Spain, the UK or anywhere else for that matter providing you have Internet connectivity (and if they have free UK phone calls, then they're ringing you for free!). You can also ring UK numbers too at excellent call rates on a pay as you go basis. With this arrangement you could also do away with your BT line in the UK and save yourself line rental fees! If you don't have a mobile phone, you can have an app on your computer or even consider purchasing a special internet phone handset known as a SIP phone. If you would like help with any of this, then please do contact me.

Turn off data

If you have a smart phone then it is likely that built into your mobile phone package you have a data allowance; however, this can get used up pretty quickly and then start costing you dearly. Your allowance is likely to be consumed by synchronising contacts, Facebook updates, app downloads and updates, Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and many more, all in the background perhaps without you realising. Your can set your phone to turn off mobile data, cut it off or warn you when you approach your contract's plan threshold. How you do this will vary from device to device depending on what version of the phone's operating system you are running. There are Apps available in both the Play Store and Apple Store to make this easier for you. If you don't have a smart phone, then don't worry, you can still save costs on communicating with family and friends:

  • If you want to keep a tight rein on your costs and only spend what you have paid for move to Pay as You Go.
  • Change from Pay as You Go to contract as often the call rates are lower.
  • Buy a Spanish SIM card for your phone. Hits Mobile have a simple pay as you go package with no ties or requirement to top up every month costing only €5,00 and comes with €5,00 of free credit. Your phone may need unlocking to allow other network operators SIMs to work. Contact Mark to purchase.
  • Use one of the solutions discussed above on your desktop, tablet or laptop; Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, Sipgate or a mixture!
  • And of course there's always e-mail!