You have an iPod Touch and a sep. (non-iPhone) mobile phone and no SMS message plan. So how do you send SMS messgages to your message plan-enrolled friends w/o paying 20 cents per outgoing and incoming SMS? is here to help. We’ve looked at three popular Apps that will allow you to do just that. The apps we selected are: Text+, TextFree and TextNow.The prices vary a bit, but the features on all three titles are very similar, so which is the best? The short answer is, it depends on the way you plan to use it, but one shortcoming of any of these apps is the ability to send the same “sender phone number” to a recipient on a mobile device which is utilizing the native SMS capabilities. If your friend receives a message sent from one of these apps, he will see some random phone number each time a new conversation is started, potentially adding loads of extra (bogus) entries into his address book.

icon_textplusText+ is ad supported, so it can remain completely free. The one major drawback (for iPod Touch) users of this app is that unless you are texting someone else with Text+, you’ll need to start a conversation, before the person trying to contact you can message you back. Unlike the other two apps we will be discussing, Text+ doesn’t offer users a permanent address at which you can be contacted. If a friend has Text+ and you are on an iPhone, you can enter your iPhone’s number into the settings so that Text+ will grab the incoming message instead of your phone, ultimately chatting for free instead of paying regular SMS charges.
textplus3Incoming message notifications can optionally appear as Push notifications or standard SMS Text Notifications (SMS msg fees apply). Text+ does offer some interesting group SMS features, but because of its must-start conversation limitations, Text+ was the least useful of the Apps for iPod Touch users wanting to communicate with native SMS users. Perhaps it is better suited for Text+ to Text+ conversations or for someone with a iPhone. We should note that Text+ does support international use, as long as you are sending to a 10-digit number on a supported carrier.

icon_textfreeTextFree is a more robust choice, with loads of options for customization and notification. Unlike Text+, you choose a unique address which your friends can use to initiate a conversation with you either via nearly any US mobile carrier or via another idevice running TextFree. With the paid version ($5.99 per year) you get an unlimited number of SMS messages, alternatively, for occasional texters, there is a free version that limits you to just 15 messages per day. Messages from paid users also get priority over those of non-paid users.

textfree3TextFree also offers the ability to re-route incoming messages originating from other TextFree users to the TextFree app to avoid standard SMS fees. It too offers PUSH notifications, but adds a couple really nice features, including the option to re-route messages to an email address when your device is offline. When not in the application, the App’s icon displays a little number on the top right to tell you how many unread messages that you have.

Customization is huge with TextFree. In the paid version, you can assign a different text tone to each friend, and there are several customizable themes to choose from, allowing you to really customize the look and feel to your taste. There are 18 emoticons to help express yourself and you have the option of using the app in landscape or vertical modes. However, we should mention that we were unable to copy text from an incoming message, otherwise, TextFree is well rounded and feature complete.

icon_textnowTextNow offers a nearly identical feature set to that of TextFree, but at a much lower price. Instead of a yearly charge, TextNow is a one-time fee of $4.99. Users select a unique usernaname, this one being an address, at which they can be contacted directly. Like the previous two apps, you get an unlimited number of SMS messages. Once again, you have the option to reroute incoming msgs originating from other users of this application to the TextNow app, to avoid standard SMS charges. Push notifications are also supported for notification of incoming messages, but unlike TextFree, there is no way to forward messages to an email address when you are offline, nor is there an on-icon counter displaying the unread message count. TextNow is also lacking support for copy/paste from messages, but the dev said that this is planned for a future release.

textnow3TextNow supports a large number of US and Canadian mobile carriers and appears to be equally as customizable as TextFree. Users can pick their own ringtone to replace the default one, assign a specific ringtone to a specific conversation and even customize the background. There are 10 emoticons to help express yourself and you also have the option of using the app in landscape or vertical mode. We should note that TextNow was also the ONLY of the three apps with which we were able to successfully send a message to a Google Voice number. It was rather simple to setup Google Voice to forward to our TextNow address, see here for details.

The Final Verdict…

icon_textnowFor low-volume texters, sending less than 15 texts a day, the free version of TextFree will probably suffice. On the other hand, anyone needing an unlimited number of texts, we’d recommend TextNow as our app of choice, due to its great performance and the cost savings over TextFree. That being said, we’d still like to see TextNow get an on-icon message counter (if possible).

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