My 25-year-old sister lives in Tokyo and was in a train on the way to the airport when the huge earthquake hit.Trying to get in touch after the quake, the biggest problem was that the mobile phone network wasn’t working — not for voice calls, at least. (Not a surprise, after such a disaster. Plus, everyone was trying to use it at the same time.)
But she was able to keep in contact with family and friends using the 3G data network and a handful of iPhone apps.
The messages and photos she posted made us feel more comfortable about her condition, even though we were obviously still very worried.
Here are her notes:
Winner: iPhone. Although I had to keep looking for places to charge, the iPhone provided consistently good reception and key apps.
Loser: BlackBerry. Couldn’t send or receive for several hours and even 12 hrs later, there is a significant delay in sending email.
Facebook: Clearly the best way to reach all of your friends at once to say you are OK. Facebook provided constant reinforcement as we reviewed our friends’ experiences as well.
(Note: Facebook is where I first learned my sister was OK after the earthquake. I had tried to email her work BlackBerry, which I thought would be the most reliable way to find her, but she didn’t respond. By the time I logged into Facebook, she had posted several updates, letting everyone know she was fine, evacuating the train, and was still dealing with scary aftershocks.)
Whatsapp: SMS was not working. Whatsapp worked as a fantastically reliable texting service, and group texts were useful to contact several people at once.
Viber: The only way to get calls through — Skype said its server was unavailable for hours
Google Maps: Found me a hotel and navigated 45 minutes by foot down tiny streets in the outskirts of Tokyo.