5 Apps for Keeping in Touch with Family & Friends

Staying connected with loved ones should be high on everyone’s New Year’s resolution list, especially after celebrating the holidays with long-distance relatives and gathering with friends you rarely see. Strive to stay in touch in 2016.

Technology and social networking make it easier than ever, so make it a priority — then download one of these handy apps to make it a snap.

1. HomeTeam

Introduced in 2015, the HomeTeam app from Panasonic offers an inventive way to connect and interact with young kids at a distance. Read the built-in stories, play virtual games — from tic-tac-toe to chess — and video chat with your grandkids, who can only keep up a traditional conversation for so long.

It’s ideal for kids ages 3 to 12. While the first month is free, a premium subscription costs $8.99 a month or $89.99 per year, available for tablets in the Apple Store or Google Play, or access it on your desktop computer.

2. Google Hangouts

Use Google Hangouts to instant message far-flung cousins, video chat your kids at college, or even get 10 people together for a virtual chat. Available for any platform, other features include screen sharing and some entertaining apps like “Google Effects” — all for free.

3. Rabbit

Get the old band back together. You can video chat with up to 15 people at once using the free app Rabbit. It also offers “Rabbitcast” where you can watch TV shows and movies or even listen to music with your distant pals.

4. Viber

Got friends abroad? Try the free Viber app make free HD voice calls, send text messages and share images to users worldwide. It works for iPhone, iPad, Android, iOS and Windows.

5. Classic Social Networking Sites

If you’ve been reluctant to get on the Facebook train or try any of the other wildly popular social networking sites, consider giving them a try in 2016. There’s a reason the big players are still thriving. Chances are your nieces and nephews already have active accounts, they’re free and easy to use.

Download Skype to make free calls on your desktop or mobile device; share your vacation or holiday photo albums on Instagram; or give your loved ones status updates on Facebook. Don’t want to share with the world? Just set your profile to private and only allow those you love to access your page.

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