The Free “Video Voicemail” App That Helps Me Stay in Touch With My Long-Distance Best Friend

published Dec 7, 2019
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Credit: Minette Hand

Ask me about my childhood friends and it won’t be long before I start gushing about the app that’s given me my high school BFF back.

Freshman year of high school, I didn’t know a single soul in my grade. Making friends was hard. But I noticed a very nice girl in science class and mustered up the courage to ask her if we could eat lunch together. “Yes!” she bubbled. The rest is history. We rarely spent a recess or lunch apart.

We shared many firsts, like our first “real” jobs (courtesy clerks at Safeway) and the first used cars we bought with our own hard-earned money. We both stayed in California during college, but as is so often the case, marriage moved us farther apart. She was expecting her first child and still living in California when I got married and moved to another planet—southern Georgia.

Through sporadic visits, phone calls that were way too few and far between, and “I miss you” texts, we kept in touch as best we could, all the while mourning how sad it was that we were on opposite sides of the country.

A few months ago, my friend suggested trying the Marco Polo app to stay in touch. With the app, you can send video messages back and forth to friends; unlike video chatting, you don’t both have to be online at the same time. We tried it: She sent me a video message, I sent one back, and suddenly we were in each other’s lives again.

Credit: Marco Polo

Get the Marco Polo app:

Until you use it yourself, it might be easy to dismiss the premise of the app: Video voicemails don’t sound too appealing. They didn’t to me. But Marco Polo enables digital face-to-face contact that isn’t hampered by the impossibility of trying to sync schedules. For busy mothers or people in different time zones, being able to talk and listen without disrupting the daily rhythms of life and your own family routine is invaluable. It brings keeping in touch to a whole new, attainable level.

The app itself is exceptionally user friendly and that alone is a game-changer. All you do is open it up, tap on the friend or group you want to send a message to, and then hit “start” to begin recording a video message. It applies a filter so subtle that you aren’t even aware it’s there, but you don’t fret over your appearance when you want to send a message. To watch your friends’ messages, you just just click on their name. Easy pause buttons and five- or ten-second backtrack or fast-forward buttons make listening a breeze.

Guess what else. The app is free.

So now my friend and I are able to share our parenting journey with one another. We ask and share advice about painting exterior doors Tricorn black. We send videos of our organizing dilemmas or throw pillow conundrums and get each other’s feedback. And, just like would happen in real life, we’re rubbing off on each other. Or at least she’s rubbing off on me: Just from listening to my friend tell me about her days, which start very early in the morning, I’ve become an early riser too! (This is something I’ve never been able to do on my own.)

Relationships make us happy and shared experiences forge a bond. Good, old friends, those who know our families and our history and have watched us evolve and love us unconditionally are one of life’s most precious gifts. Marco Polo has given me a way to hold one of these special people close in my life regardless of our physical distance. It’s such a beautiful thing to have my friend back.