TextNow is a mobile virtual network operator or MVNO. This means that it piggybacks on other cellular providers in order to offer you phone service. The app is free to download, and it also promises you a free phone number that you can use for online calls and texting.

TextNow is a unique service provider. It offers inexpensive plans that you can use on an unlocked phone of your own. You can also purchase a phone through TextNow.

Let’s take a look and see what the advantages (and drawbacks) are to using TextNow.

What is TextNow?

The TextNow app allows you to seamlessly make calls on your computer or tablet. You can use your phone as well as using their free Wi-Fi-only option. If you want to be able to use their service without Wi-Fi, you will need to purchase a plan.

Their plans are relatively inexpensive, though, with the cheapest plans starting at $9.99 per month with no contract.

Some of the features of TextNow include:

  • Making and receiving voice calls
  • Using emojis and stickers
  • Sending pictures
  • Caller ID
  • Voicemail transcription
  • Call forwarding
  • Customizable tones
  • Unified inbox for messages inside and outside of TextNow
  • Floating chat
  • Seamlessly make calls from all your devices with the TextNow website and app

About TextNow – Who Are They?

TextNow isn’t a new operation. It’s been around since 2009, which makes it ancient for an internet company. They originally started out as a Voice over Internet Protocol company. You could download an app that allowed you to call or text using Wi-Fi.

TextNow’s free app works much the same way, taking advantage of Wi-Fi to make calls and send texts. They have expanded into offering cellular coverage as well, piggybacking on the Sprint and T-Mobile networks. You have to purchase their SIM card or one of their phones to take advantage of the cellular service, though.

TextNow Specs / App Details

Iphone home screen

Compatible Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android phones, Android Tablets, Windows computers, Mac computers

Price: Free (Wi-Fi only)

Ads: Yes. If you have a paid plan, you can view ads to get a discount on your service.

Upsells: Yes. You can update and change your plan.

In-App Purchases: $1.99-$29.99 per item

Number of Downloads (Google Play): 10 Million+

Number of Downloads (Apple App Store): Unspecified

App Category: Social Media / Communications

Publisher: TextNow

Current Version: Varies by device

Download Size: Varies by device

Minimum Software Requirement: Android 2.1 or higher, OS 9.0 or later

Getting Started with TextNow

To get started with TextNow, download the app from the appropriate app store for your device

 

After you’ve asked to install the app, it will ask for access to several of your phone’s features, including making in-app purchases, your contacts, and using your camera.

Textnow App screen accepting of what phone services the app uses

Once you click accept, the app will download. Once it downloads and you open the app, you are asked to either use a Google account (on an Android) or get a free phone number.

After that, you’re asked to provide your area code to get a new number.

Textnow app screen to choose your number by area code or location

After you enter your area code, you choose a number. It will provide you with several free options.

TextNow Interface

The TextNow interface is clean and simple to use.

Text now App screen showing group chat, sending pictures and videos

There is one main screen that holds your conversations. You tap on the pencil icon in the lower right-hand corner to compose texts. You click on the keypad in the upper right corner to make calls. It’s very straightforward. As you text, you can add extra features such as stickers and emojis.

You’re unlikely to miss calls with the apps floating chat feature. As calls or texts come in, a floating circle appears on your home screen. If you find this feature distracting, you can turn off the feature. If you have privacy concerns, you can also secure your messages with a passcode.

Textnow app screen showing you can setup a passcode

International Calls and Texts

You can call and text within the United States and Canada for free. If you want to call outside of those countries, rates start at $.10 per minute. If you don’t want to pay the fee, you can earn credits by viewing ads and completing offers. These offers only pay a couple of cents each, though, so you’ll need to complete several to build up enough credits to make a call.

Parental Concerns – What You Need to Know

If you’re a parent, it’s natural to be concerned about your children’s online activities. TextNow doesn’t have any built-in controls. Even though it may be tempting to save a few bucks by installing the app for the free texting, it will also make it difficult to monitor who they are talking to, especially since they can set up a passcode to protect their texts.

Considerations

  • The app allows pictures to be sent and received
  • The app does assign a random phone number
  • The app is rated for everyone, but you should try the app first to decide if you want your children to utilize it
  • Users have complained about receiving calls from random numbers. Make sure your children know to ignore calls or texts from anyone they don’t know

Consumer / User Reviews

people sharing their opinions and comments

Overall, user reviews are positive for this app, particularly for texting. There are some complaints about call quality and issues with phone numbers resetting. If you don’t use the app, your phone number may change. The app regularly releases new versions with bug fixes.

You also can only contact customer service via chat through their website. There is no number to call.

Number of Downloads (Google Play): 10 Million+

Number of Downloads (Apple App Store): Unspecified

Google Play Rating: 4.5 stars (447,427 reviews)

Apple Store Rating: 3.6 stars (1,600 reviews)

Final Verdict

textnow app screen showing messages

Here are the pros and cons of TextNow, based on our experiences and user feedback:

The Good

  • Clean, simple interface
  • Can sync with Google account
  • Free option via Wi-Fi saves money
  • Easy to use
  • Allows you to use a tablet to make calls over Wi-Fi
  • Provides you with a free, functional U.S. number

The Bad

  • Calls drop frequently
  • Poor call quality
  • Phone numbers reset frequently
  • Ads take up a lot of screen space
  • Frequent scam calls
  • Loads slowly
  • App lags sometimes
  • Some users have trouble sending photos

Verdict

TextNow seems to work relatively well if you text. If you’re using it for calls, the call quality seems questionable. Calls may also drop. Many users are also overwhelmed by the ads, so it might be worth it to upgrade to the premium version if the ads are taking over the app.

Overall, the free plan seems to work relatively well, but there may be better options out there.

Closing Thoughts

These days, most people text far more than they call. If you’re one of those people, this app provides you with a free option for texting and calling people in the United States and Canada. If you’re getting it for the free calling, though, you may want to keep looking for an app that offers higher call quality.

The ability to “earn” money for phone credits by viewing ads is a nice feature as well. It could save you serious money if you opt for a paid plan or make international calls.