I am super lucky in that I have some wonderful international friends, colleagues and even better those super close to me. The upsides to this are huge. Places to stay when in Europe, people who know the best places to go in several countries and most importantly a place to get a home cooked meal while abroad. The downsides are it can be hard to stay in touch and for reasons I can't even imagine phone calls are still stupid expensive. There is of course email, Facebook, twitter and Skype (where you can do free video calls as well as chats). These are great for when you are at home or at least somewhere with WiFi, but what about just out and about with your phone? I have international texting plan, but that is only good for 100 texts a month and it can get used up fast. There are several instant messaging applications, but sometimes they don't work well across all platforms. So while it's good for you on your iPhone it may not be good for them on their BlackBerry.
Since I love to investigate all forms of cellular communication I was super excited when I found Ping Chat. It seemed to have everything I needed and was free to install. I was even more excited when I found out it works super well on most phones so almost everyone could be on it (I hear they are working on a Windows phone app too). Another big perk is I can also send photos and video instantly from my phone during the chat (that is currently extra on my international texting plan). So now I can chat whenever and wherever with all my favorite international people and not worry about any extra charges. Now I just need to work on not being on my phone all the time, guess maybe it's a good thing there is a large time difference!