"Connect the world by creating the most exceptional and affordable phone service."
Who is TextNow?
Two words to describe TextNow - innovative and unique. Just when you think you've seen it all, a little trailblazer company comes up with a big idea. TextNow is the world's first cloud-based phone carrier.
What is cloud-based? It simply means that the carrier connects users through a downloadable ap and WiFi.With TextNow, the phone uses Sprint's nationwide 3G/4G/LTE network when there isn't WiFi available.
There are some really appealing features with this carrier, but there's also some drawbacks. Let's break it down.
You can compare TextNow plans using Wirefly, or read on for the rest of the review. Plan options are simplified and easy as ordering a soy, mocha frappuccino from your favorite coffee barista:
Ideal Customers For TextNow
If your priority is being able to fit your monthly cellphone bill into a tight or limited budget, then TextNow's affordable plans may be for you.
If you have a consistent and reliable WiFi source available to you so that you don't need a lot of cellular data, then you're going to be very interested in what this company offers.
The price points on plans and phones are also ideal for parents needing to add children or elderly loved ones without it costing the arm and leg most major carriers demand to "add a line."
TextNow isn't high speed data. It's not the bells and whistles offered by the big carriers. But, it's also priced accordingly. If you don't need high speed data and bells and whistles, then why pay for them?
What's Your Plan?
Plans at TextNow range from $19.99 to $59.99 a month. That's right, $19.99 a month will get you 1.5 GB of 3G/4G/LTE data, unlimited 2G data, and unlimited talk and text within the US and Canada.
Bam, you have fulfilled your parental obligation to get the kid a phone and haven't gone broke!
Isn't it helpful when carriers make plans simple, concise, and upfront? It's very irritating when a consumer has to spend 20 minutes tallying up separate charges, sliding bars around pie charts, and jumping through cyber hoops just to see what one of dozens of plans will cost. Speaking of...
How Does TextNow Stack Up Against Competitors?
With Google's Project Fi, you'll get 4 GB of data for $60. That's $20 more than TextNow; doesn't include free 2G; but, unlike TextNow, does include free international texting. A similar $20 difference can be seen across the board on comparable Plans between Project Fi and TextNow.
FreedomPop has a free plan, offering 200 talk, 500 text, and 500 MB data. This free option could be ideal for primary caregivers of elderly parents who really just need an emergency line for their loved one. 1 GB is $19.99 and 4GB is $34.99, but data speed drops to 128kbps once limit is exceeded. You can't use your number across devices.
Republic Wireless offers a $20 unlimited talk and text, 1 GB plan. 4GB with unlimited talk and text is $45. If you hit your data limit for the month, you'll only have access through WiFi or upgrading your plan. If you upgrade, then you can't downgrade it back until the next billing cycle.
In short, there are some cheaper plans offered by competitors. The universal difference in the comparatives is that none of the other carriers offer free unlimited 2G across all their plans.
How Can TextNow Offer So Much So Cheap?
TextNow labels itself as a hybrid carrier. This means that the company uses a blend of both a cellular data network and WiFi.
The savings are possible because the carrier is able to prioritize WiFi as the default connection source. In other words, if WiFi is available, your calls and messages are automatically being sent over it vs. using a cellular data network
So, there's no manually switching or searching for a WiFi to sign on through. And, when WiFi isn't available, the phone will automatically switch back over to utilize Sprint's nationwide cellular network.
Now before you get too excited, do keep in mind that there are some issues with the blending. Customers report that it's not always seamless. For example, the cellular to WiFi handoff may occasionally drop the ball... I mean call.
If your phone is mainly personal use, then the threat of dropped calls may be merely an annoyance that you can live with for the affordable pricing.
Those making a lot of important business-related calls, however, may have more pause with the potential for dropped calls.
If the above business model sounds familiar to you, then you're probably already familiar with how competitors like FreedomPop and Republic Wireless operate and keep prices down by blending WiFi and cellular. What makes TextNow unique is the cloud-based feature.
Cloud-Based and TextNow App
TextNow uses voice-over-internet and text-over-internet technology via an app. The customer downloads the app, signs in, and gets a phone number.
The traditional "Messages" app that comes standard with the phone is replaced by the TextNow app.
Now, you will use the TextNow app to complete a call or text. Don't worry, you aren't losing anything by exchanging Messages' app for this app.
Like the Messages app, the TextNow app shows your previous conversations. You will still see all missed, sent, and received calls and can set your notification preferences. It's preloaded with 10 emoticons. You can text existing and new pics. A menu button tap to see credits, bandwidth, your phone number. A menu button tap to see your profile.
Another menu tap and you will have access to the TextNow store, where you can manage account settings and buy call credits. You can even earn free credits by completing offers like watching a video or trying out a new app.
With your TextNow number, you can sign in to your account on your android or iOS tablet, your iPod, or even your PC to text or call over a cellular connection.
How Do I Pay?
While there are no plan contracts or credit checks at TextNow, it is a subscription service.
This means that you subscribe to a monthly plan, give the company your credit card, and allow them to automatically renew the subscription on a monthly basis.
No credit card? You can use certain prepaid debit or credit cards to sign up for service, but you'll need to remember to reload the card so that you don't have your subscription canceled due to lack of funds for billing.
If and when you choose to switch carriers, you simply cancel your subscription and your credit or prepaid card will stop being charged on the next billing cycle.
Can I Use An Existing Phone?
You can use select Sprint, Virgin Mobile, and Boost devices with TextNow.
You can also buy SIM cards if you have a GSM OR CDMA compatible phone.
However, TextNow does recommend purchasing a TextNow phone if audio quality is important to you. The phones they sell are specifically programmed to utilize the cellular network and the data network for calls, whereas others aren't
Most importantly, phones not purchased from TextNow will not have the free unlimited 2G.
Being that one of TextNows most appealing attributes is free unlimited 2G, I'd recommend buying one of TextNow's new or refurbished devices.
All phones arrive to you fully activated and ready for you to sign in (with a user name and password) to your TextNow account.
There are no TextNow logos or anything to indicate the carrier on the devices.
Do keep in mind that each phone will be associated with only one account, meaning each line or device will need a unique user name and password to operate it.
TextNow devices are also designed only to be used through TextNow and will not transfer to other carriers due to the software.
All devices must be paid for upfront. There aren't any financing options directly through TextNow.
The cheapest route is refurbished devices, such as the Alcatel Dawn for $9.99 and the Motorola Moto E for $19.99. A refurb Apple 32GB iPhone 7, at $499, and a refurb Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, at $399, are some of the more expensive options.
All new and refurbished phones are certified, have a 30-day money back guarantee, and a 1-year warranty. Of note, the warranty is voided if the user's subscription becomes inactive over the year.
The company touts that their refurb phones will look and operate the same as if it were new from the manufacturer.
The carrier does have a few new phones, too. A new Coolpad Android Smartphone is $9.99.
Whether you're one to jump on the latest upgrades or steer toward the more budget-friendly devices, most will find the TextNow's device selection adequate. They currently offer 13 main devices, some with an alternate color or spec option.
Republic Wireless offers only eight devices, starting with a new Moto E4 for $99. The range goes up to $599 for the Galaxy S7 edge. They do offer Affirm financing with credit approval.
TextNow Pros And Cons
Affordable devices with good selection and warranty
Easy automatic renewal that can be canceled at any time without contract penalties
Phone number can be used across other devices
Good option for users that don't need high speed
Good option for new users who just need a line to get started
Good option for users with a consistent, reliable WiFi source and don't need a lot of cellular data
Unlimited free access to 2G
Outright own the device with no lease agreement or penalty for early upgrades
Call quality can be poor given Sprint's 4G network can be sketchy in certain areas and WiFi isn't likely readily available in said areas
Potential for dropped calls during handoffs from cellular to/from WiFi
No financing is available on devices for those that don't have the upfront cost in-hand
Thumbs up for affordability.
The biggest draws? Many will appreciate being able to use their TextNow number to call family and friends from other handheld devices and PCs. And, I think most will appreciate unlimited 2G as a backup.
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