[Update 6/18: After you've read this review on Textfree Unlimited check out our Tour of Push Notifications using Textfree Unlimited.]
Like all of you Infinite SMS lovers out there, I was sad to see Google shut it down this week. When I heard the news, I started searching for another app that I could use to send free texts using my iPod Touch. Much to my dismay, most of the apps that I found in the iTunes App Store that claimed to offer this capability were only one or two star apps. I didn’t want to mess with something that was only going to work some of the time or have quirks that I would have to deal with constantly. Then, I stumbled upon Textfree Unlimited. With a 3 1/2 star rating in the App Store, I figured it was probably my best bet, but a little on the expensive side. Then I discovered the Lite version. After speaking with a representative from Pinger Inc., I found that the two versions have only a couple differences. She told me that Textfree Lite, “… works exactly the same as the Textfree Unlimited app, just that it has a 15-message limit per calendar day, and it has ads. Otherwise, it works exactly the same.” So, I gave the Lite version a try and wasn’t disappointed.
Textfree is easy to setup and get texting with. The first thing you do when you launch the app is set up a nickname for yourself. Then, you are ready to go. Tap on the icon in the upper right hand side of the screen to start a text. Enter in a mobile number and type your message. Sending a text through the app and the replies that you get back are free. Now, what happens if someone else initiates the text? If someone from another mobile number texts you, it does carry the normal charges for you. However, there are a few settings that you can change under the options menu to change that.
Under options you can turn on email notification, which allows the app to send you an email notification when you receive a text after you have closed the app. Simply enter in the email address that comes to your iPhone or iPod Touch. Then, make sure you turn on the new email sound on your device. The app will then send you a confirmation email with a link that you must click on. Also, in the options menu, you can turn on the textfree to textfree capability. When you flip the switch to on, the app will ask for the phone number associated with your iPhone. The app will then send a text (this one will have normal charges) with a confirmation code that you must enter into the app to confirm your phone number. Unfortunately, the need for a phone number rules out the textfree to textfree option for iPod Touch users. Once this option is turned on, you can send texts to and receive texts from other textfree users free of charge. The only problem with this setup is that if you get a text when the app is closed, the only way you will get notified of the text is through your email. In all fairness, this problem only exists because it is not yet possible to rectify it. Apple does not allow apps to notify you of anything when they are not open. The good news is that the emails that you receive to notify you of a text contain an link that you can tap on to automatically launch the app and pull up the text.
There are a couple more things to be aware of in using this app. First and most important, is that the main difference between the two versions of Textfree is that the Lite version only allows you to send 15 texts per day. The paid version allows you to send an unlimited number of texts. Second, right now you cannot use the app in landscape mode. Thus, you have to use the smaller keyboard, but that is not a big deal. Third, as with all other texting apps, iPod Touch users must be on a Wi-Fi network to send or receive any texts.
If you are looking for a good app for free texting, Textfree seems to fit the bill. It is quick and easy to use. Textfree Unlimited is a little on the pricey side, but probably a must have for those who text a lot.
Textfree Lite is free.
Developer Website (Textfree Support): http://www.pinger.com
What happenned to Infinite SMS? This very popular SMS application appears to be MIA and a post on the official Infinite SMS website indicates that Google has indeed blocked their access to the Google SMS Gateway.
Google’s official statement:
“Infinite SMS is a third party app that has been using Google technology to provide free SMS for users, while we were paying for the cost of the text messages. While Google is supportive of third party apps, we’ve decided we can’t support this particular usage of our system at this time. SMS chat is still just an experiment in the early testing stages in Gmail Labs. We’re blocking all external XMPP clients from sending SMS; we’re not singling out Inner Fence.”
As for Infinite SMS alternatives, stay tuned as we are working to put together some suggestions. Infinite SMS has been a very popular app, in fact its been our most popular review, so we can see a heavy demand for this type of thing. We’ll do some looking and offer up some alternatives in a day or two.
Update (March 10, 2009): We are receiving reports that Infinite SMS has been pulled from the iTunes App Store. Apparently Google has shut down the hole to their free SMS gateway which the app relied on.
For an excellent alternative, check out TextFree Unlimited.
This app is one of the coolest and most useful apps that I have found in the iTunes App Store yet. It allows you to send and receive an infinite number of SMS messages from your iPhone or iPod Touch free of charge. It is very easy to set up and to use. When you first load the app, it will ask you to sign in to your Google email account or create one. This account is used by Google to send the messages. When you type in a message, Google sends it from one of their dedicated SMS phone numbers to the phone number that you enter for your contact. You can also just choose a contact from your existing contact list. Your contact can then reply to your text and you can carry on a conversation from there. Be warned though: for those that you text, the messages will count as they normally would on their calling plan.
There are a few things to note about this app, which the developer notes on the first page of the app when you launch it. If you use the same Google account for this app as you do for Google Talk on your computer for IM, you may run into problems. To keep the two from interfering with each other when you are logged into both, you may want to create a second account for this program. Also, when you do not have this app running, you will not be able to receive SMS notifications (we’re all still waiting for background notifications from Apple). When you do open the program though, it will cue up the texts that were received while you were away. Another thing to be aware of is that no one can text you first, you have to initiate the conversation from the app so that the person with the cell phone can reply.
The interface on this app is very similar to the appearance of SMS as it exists on the iPhone. It is very clean, neat and easy to use. The only complaint I would voice would be that you cannot text back and forth with another person using this app also. When you send a text, it must be sent to a 10 digit phone number. Since this app operates using on the Google Talk network you would think that this would be easy to do. It would be great if a future upgrade could provide this functionality.
The coolest thing to me about this app is that I can use an iPod Touch to text without the need for a cellular phone or having the texts count on my calling plan. All I need is my Touch and a WiFi network. I do not have to use the old T9 method of typing to text on my regular phone either (I’m not a fan!). It is so nice to have the full keyboard. This app is a must have for all iPod Touch users.
Infinite SMS is $0.99 in the iTunes App Store.
Rate This App: