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Use One of These to Save Money on Text Messaging Fees
There are a lot of things wrong with the way mobile carriers deal with their cell phone business. It’s safe to say that we all hate the two year contract, we hate having to pay for tethering and we really hate having to pay for something as basic as texting. The number of text messages sent in the United States last year was over 2 trillion, and for the carriers to deliver these messages the cost to them is virtually zero (according to this article in The New York Times, the technology sits on top of already existing telecom platforms). Galling? Yes.

So here are lots of alternatives if you want to offset some of your monthly text message allowance, or if you want to be really brave and eliminate the texting option from your contract altogether. It should be noted up front that free texting doesn’t come easily - most of these involve some set-up time, or getting an extra phone number from which you text, or only being able to text to people who have the same app. None of these are as easy as just using your carrier’s texting plan, so how badly you want it will determine the lengths to which you go for it. Also, be sure to read the set-up instructions carefully, for many of these you’ll have to turn off your phone’s native texting application or you may be charged for any return texts you receive.

Also, we use the word ‘free’ in the sense that you won’t have to pay monthly or per-message, but some apps may cost a few dollars to download.

These Apps Will Let You Send SMS and MMS Messages
Google Voice (iPhone, Android)
One of the many wonderful things Google Voice does is allow you to send free text messages from your computer or from your phone. You will have to set up a Google Voice account, and receive a Google Voice number, but doing so is free and easy. After that it’s merely a case of launching the app and texting away to your heart’s desire.

You can’t yet get Google Voice for the Windows 7 Phone but there is a third party app called GVoice that includes many of the same features, one of them being free SMS.

  Gmail SMS: For those with Gmail (pretty much everyone these days) you can also send free SMS text messages directly from your account. You simply need to enable the ability in Settings, then enter the contact and the text message and send. It’s totally free and any reply you get will appear in your Gmail Chat box. It’s important to note that this is available through Google Labs, which means it’s still very experimental and with Google “disbanding” Google Labs, we wonder if this feature will be around for the long haul.  


TextNow (iPhone)
This is a good option for anyone with an iPod Touch or iPad who wants to be able to text. It assigns a phone number to your device, so as long as you have access to Wi-Fi you’re golden and able to send and receive both SMS and MMS. Since it’s free you do have to deal with a few ads, but if that’s a problem you can purchase a subscription to remove them.


TextFree (iPhone, Android)
This is very similar to TextNow, but available on Android as well. TextFree will also allow you to call other TextFree phone numbers for free, as well as receive calls from any number. You can also text from your computer at pinger.com/textfree.

HeyWire (iPhone, Android)
Hey Wire is a free SMS and MMS texting app that has also incorporated various social networking clients into its system. So this is a good option for anyone who also wants to be able to chat through Facebook and Twitter on their phone. It is also unique to most of the other apps in that the recipient of your text doesn’t have to have HeyWire to receive and reply to your texts.
  Jumvo (iPhone): Jumvo is an interesting and quite unique app, in that it allows you to send voice messages rather than text. You speak into your phone for as long or as little as you like, it records the message and then sends it to whomever you choose. There is also push notification for when you receive a message and the ability to have group conversations with multiple friends. It’s great for when you’re driving and since there is no voice-to-text translation your message is guaranteed to be coherent. So while it’s not technically a texting app, we felt it deserved to be mentioned as a possible alternative. It’s currently only available for the iPhone but hopefully that will change soon.  
Could Instant Messaging Be the New Texting?
Kik Messenger (iPhone, Android, Windows Phone 7)
Kik is basically Blackberry Messenger for all the other platform phones. It’s essentially instant messaging to other Kik users and the app will tell you when the message has been sent, delivered, read and when someone is typing. It’s known for being very fast, and includes the ability to have group conversations.
GroupMe (iPhone, Android, Blackberry, W7 Phone)
GroupMe is probably the most well designed group messaging app available. They give you a unique phone number to use and it allows you to start group conversations with anyone in your contacts, and share locations, maps and photos. One of the more thoughtful aspects is the fact that it will work on regular feature phones, so you can talk to your friends that are still technologically lagging. Groupme was recently acquired by Skype who is now owned by Microsoft.
Whatsapp (iPhone, Android, Blackberry)
This is another cross-platform messaging application that works over your 3G connection so you don’t have to pay for SMS. In addition to basic messaging to all iPhone, Android, Nokia and BlackBerry users can send each other unlimited images, video and audio media messages. Because it uses your data plan it would be best to either have the unlimited data option, or keep a close eye on how much bandwidth this consumes so you don’t accidentally go over your limit.
Beluga (iPhone, Android)
With Beluga, you can create private groups (or what the app calls ‘pods’) of friends. Because everyone in a pod sees every update it’s great for coordinating plans with specific people, plus updates are instant and you can share location information via push notification.
Bottom Line
There are a lot of options here and it can be a bit overwhelming. At the end of the day only you know what would work best for your needs but it may useful to know that Kik Messenger is the highest rated and most used of the messaging apps while Google Voice is the highest rated and most used of the texting apps. On top of that both of them have our recommendation as well, at minimum everyone should consider utilizing Google Voice for all its many advantages, which include more than just the free texting.
Don’t forget to check out Retrevo where you’ll find reviews and manuals for all popular gear and gadgets including cameras, HDTV, laptops and more.


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Like this is new news...

Have been using it for quite a while through Google. It works very well on my iPad2. I even use my iPad as a phone with Google talk and it's free. LOL @ your overpriced rip off data plans and iPhones.

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I'm confused. If you

I'm confused. If you already have a data plan in order to use the android system, why not have the texting plan? I never saw a data plan without a text plan included.

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Basically, because why pay

Basically, because why pay $20 more every month if you don't have to? Some people can't afford it.

texting

don't att require you have a data plan to activate your iphone? and a data plan has texting.

My AT&T plan charges

My AT&T plan charges $20/month extra for texting OVER the data plan charge.

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