Get free phone service and text messaging from TextNow - CNET

Get free phone service and text messaging from TextNow - CNET

Get free phone service and text messaging from TextNow - CNET

Posted: 07 Jan 2021 08:42 AM PST


TextNow's free plan affords unlimited calls and text messages using actual cell towers, not Wi-Fi. There's no data included, but not everyone needs it.

Rick Broida/CNET

One could argue that a phone without a data plan isn't good for much, but that's not true for everyone. Remember voice calls? Yep, still a thing. And text messaging? Just as important these days. Meanwhile, many of us are still working from home, where Wi-Fi handles all our data needs. And I know some older people who don't use apps at all; they just need a phone.

So let's revisit this compelling plan introduced by TextNow about a year ago: Unlimited ad-supported calls and text messages, absolutely free. There's no data included (more on that below), though calls do use voice-over-IP cellular data, not traditional cell service. Virtually all other apps that allow free calls and messaging (Google Voice, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and so forth) require Wi-Fi or a traditional data plan.

So, for example, if you've got an old phone lying around and want to keep it active as a backup, here's a totally free way to do that. Similarly, you could give a phone to a kid or other family member who just needs a way to keep in touch, without the added expense of a monthly bill.

Read more: The best budget phones for 2021

Just to be clear, any phone running TextNow's free plan can still do app and internet things. It'll just need Wi-Fi to do them.

Who's paying for this free lunch?

As noted above, this is an ad-supported service, one that operates on Sprint's network (which is now owned by T-Mobile). Those ads take the form of banners within the TextNow app and occasional videos (some with sound) that appear after a call. You'll also see full-page pop-up ads, though only once a day at most, according to a TextNow spokesperson. 

If you want an ad-free experience, you can pay $9.99 a month. That also scores you voicemail transcription and unlimited photo and video history. 

As for data, TextNow gives you the option of 2GB per month for $19.99. That's a reasonably competitive rate, though if you're looking for low-cost service that includes data, make sure to check out carriers like Hello Mobile, Mint Mobile and Visible.

Maybe you just want data for a month or two at a time? No problem, after that you can always revert back to the free plan. As with most smaller carriers, TextNow requires no contract.

There are TextNow apps for Android and iOS; the free plan is available on both platforms. You need a Sprint-compatible phone and SIM card; if you're missing the latter, you can buy an activation kit for $9.99

Does it work?

This free plan is available anywhere on the Sprint Nationwide Network; you can see the coverage map here. However, data roaming is not included, so your only option for service outside the network would be on Wi-Fi. "For most customers, our coverage and service will be indistinguishable from that of the Sprint cellular network, and may actually be better in some circumstances," according to the aforementioned TextNow representative.

TextNow does use "real" SMS and MMS, which is important for things like shortcode messaging (five-digit numbers used primarily for business-to-consumer messaging and advertising) and two-factor authentication. "Messaging does run through the app but delivers over real SMS and MMS channels with all the major operators in the US and Canada," the rep told me. "TextNow also supports most shortcodes, just like normal carriers do."

As noted above, I first learned about this free plan about a year ago. At that time I tested it with an old Motorola Moto X4, which happen to have a compatible Sprint SIM card. Although I did encounter a handful of issues with setup, resulting in trips to various support pages and phone-settings menus, eventually I got everything working. 

And now I have a functional extra phone that's not costing me a dime to operate. When Wi-Fi is available, TextNow defaults to that. When it's not, I can still make and take phone calls and send and receive text messages. The service even includes free calls to Canada, conference calling, voicemail and group texting.

This could be a genuine money-saver for some users and a lifesaver for others.

Your thoughts?

Read more: 8 best phones under $200: Our picks for budget phones that still work great

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Best IP phones of 2021: VoIP phones for the small business and home office - TechRadar

Posted: 27 Apr 2020 12:00 AM PDT

IP phones are designed to work with VoIP services in a dedicated way, rather than work with landlines. This means they can have all the features you'd expect from a telephone, but are more properly integrated into the wider array of features that a business VoIP telecoms service can provide.

Some of the best IP phones run on modern phone operating systems such as Android to give them advanced features – from video conferencing to multi-user calls as well as contact and schedule management. These can also work with audio conferencing services to get the most out of your communications.


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