These Are The iPhone Apps That My Sister Used To Stay In Touch From Japan After The Earthquake

Japan newscast wearing hardhats after earthquakeAn iPhone picture my sister took from her hotel — stranded in the middle of nowhere — the day of the earthquake.

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.

Key apps:

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.

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