Many people could save hundreds of dollars every year by dropping their cellular carrier’s text messaging plan. “Drop my text plan? You can’t be serious!”
Well, yes, I am serious and here’s why. First the problem: some wireless phone companies charge 20-40 cents for each message. If you text a lot and want unlimited messaging, it will cost you $20/month and even more with some mobile providers. And, for many providers, these fees are on top of a $40/month or so data plan!
I don’t know about you but I think that’s a lot of money going out each month. Thankfully, there’s a solution: there are some really great free (usually ad-supported) or almost free messaging options for most iPhone, Blackberry, or Android phone users. Available as handy apps, these free messaging services require a 3G or better cellular data signal or a wireless Internet network (Wi-Fi) and you’re ready to setup your account and start texting.
There are several very workable and convenient options to consider if you want to ditch your expensive text messaging plan. And as an added bonus for Apple and Android tablets and similar devices without cellular data plans, you can often use them to message cellphones as long as you are using Wi-Fi. This means that old deactivated smartphone might be worth reviving as a backup platform for you to text kids or family at home!
Other benefits of free text applications are many. For example, some mobile messaging apps can be added to your desktop or laptop computer so you can text freely via the Internet. Others also send copies of text messages to your email inbox as an added convenience. And for those who travel, many mobile messaging apps have international benefits. For example, these apps generally allow free texting internationally via Wi-Fi Internet connections to others using the same app. That feature alone can save a lot of money over traditional text messaging plans!
So, with this in mind, let’s dig in and learn five ways to save money while texting up a storm! Below are several popular apps that many people use to text for virtually nothing.
1. Apple iOS Devices
Many people are already using free mobile messaging and don’t even know it! The iMessage app that comes pre-loaded on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch automatically sends mobile messages rather than text messages to other iOS devices (and most Mac computers). iMessage also supports sending photos, videos, locations, and contacts. In addition, iMessage lets you know if your text was delivered and when someone is in the process of reply to you.
Here’s how to find out if you’re using iMessage instead of your texting plan: if the text messages show up in a blue bubble rather than a green bubble then it’s using iMessage. That means the message was free for you and anyone texting over Wi-Fi using an iOS device or Mac with iMessage. This unique capability makes iMessage ideal for families who are all using iOS devices. Also, with iMessage there are no ads to get in your way.
2. Facebook Chat
If you are already using Facebook then the Facebook Chat option makes for a good substitute for text messaging. There are free Facebook apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry devices as well as Mac and
Windows computers. Another benefit of Facebook Chat is that the app shows if your recipient is online and available for chatting. If not, you can still send the message and Facebook saves it for later when they are online.
If you want to send and receive unlimited texts (and photos) via WiFi or your cellular data network to any phone in more than 35 countries then Pinger is for you. (With Pinger you can also receive unlimited free voice calls. That means you can effectively turn your tablet or iPod touch into a phone!) There are free (ad-supported) Pinger apps for iOS and Android devices as well as desktop applications for Mac and Windows computers. If you want to skip the ads you can pay $5.99/year for that option. Tip: be sure to send at least one Pinger text per month to retain your free Pinger phone number (local numbers are available in select markets) because if you don’t use it you lose it.
The company behind Pinger also produces an iOS and Android app that has no voice calling features and is simply for texting
and picture messaging. Called Textfree, with this app you can message any mobile number in the United States and Canada. Both Pinger and Textfree send real SMS texts coming from your own phone number. That means your friends don’t need have to be Textfree or Pinger app users to receive your messages! You can also text from anywhere in the world as long as you have a data connection. As an added bonus, you can use the Textfree app to Facebook Chat or you can send free texts from your computer via the Textfree web app.
TextNow is another service that provides free texting and calling from computers and mobile devices. The free TextNow iOS and Android apps offer you unlimited texting within the United States and Canada at no charge. You also get your own
phone number so you can receive text messages and calls. And there’s more: starting at $14.99/month you can use TextNow without Wi-Fi! The TextNow Mi-Fi wireless device not only allows you to use TextNow remotely, but also provides Wi-Fi service to tablets and other wireless devices.
5. Skype Messaging
Many think of Skype as a voice telephone substitute that works on their computer and it’s excellent for that; however, Skype also has messaging capabilities. The Skype app is free and available for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry devices as well as both Mac and Windows computers.
Bottom line, given these five free or almost free messaging options it hardly makes sense to pay for expensive text messaging plans. However, before dumping your cellphone carrier’s texting feature, you might want to make sure you weren’t “grandfathered” into a really great texting plan because you likely won’t be able to return to it if you ever decide to go back. Also, before making the switch, it’s a good idea to test one or more of these free messaging apps for a few weeks or months to make sure they will work for you under a variety of contexts and demands. Once you find the app that works best for you and your family, enjoy the benefits and savings that come with unlimited messaging.