Here’s how to get free texting on your mobile phone. You don’t have to sign up for an expensive texting plan or have to choose between spending money on a texting plan vs. a data plan. And you certainly don’t have to spend money on BOTH.
Text messaging charges have to be one of the absolute biggest scams these days. Think about it: Cellular phone companies have limited bandwidth at any particular cell tower. Voice data is digital data that’s constantly streaming. It uses roughly 0.8MB per minute (I’m assuming about 13kb/s). But how much does a text message use? About 136 bytes per message. Assuming you’re involved in a text-heavy conversation, you’d be sending about 4 text messages a minute (and your buddy would be too) for a total of 8 text messages a minute. If you consume all 136 characters for all 8 messages, that’s a (gasp!) whopping 1088 bytes (or 0.001088 MB) per minute. So, if texting consumes 0.13% (that’s not 13%, that’s 100 times smaller than 13%) as much as voice, why isn’t it that much cheaper than voice? The answer doesn’t lie in how much it costs cellular companies to provide the service, the answer lies in the fact that consumers are willing to pay over 73,000% as much per byte for it as they do for voice per byte.
In reality, when you send a text message, rather than making a phone call, you save your cell provider TONS of bandwidth. So, why don’t they want to encourage people to text to reduce the load of their cell networks?
The only thing I can figure is that their bean counters ran the numbers and determined that the extra load on the voice network is more than made up for by the extra income people are willing to shell out for sending tiny, cryptic, text messages.
If that’s the case, it’s hard to blame them, but, at the same time, my financial decisions are based on what’s best for ME, not for the phone company. I can’t justify paying a huge fee for a simplistic technology that is less convenient to me that voice and what I know costs much less to provide. So, I’ve been doing without texting for years.
But, what IF it were priced right? For me, that’d have to be FREE. And now it is, on any Android or modern Blackberry (or any other phone, but with caveats if you don’t have with Android or Blackberry).
Again, this only works on Android and modern Blackberry phones (for other phones, skip to the next section). I suspect more phones will be supported in the future (except for iPhone). To see what’s currently supported, go to http://m.google.com/voice. Those are the platforms that Google has created a native app for. Other platforms may already have apps available for them written by independent app developers. iPhone will never have this because of Apple’s insistence on a completely closed architecture, unfortunately. Sorry iPhone users… there is NOT an app for that!
Here’s how to get free texting:
- If you don’t have one already, signup for a new Google Voice account (it’s free) at http://google.com/voice. (I’m not going to provide a full tutorial on Google voice in this article).
- In the upper right, choose “Settings”, then “Voice Settings”.
- On the “Phones” tab, create a new phone number (you’ll do this only once and you’ll have to pay $10 to change it later, if you choose to, so pick wisely!).
- Add your mobile number. Be sure to verify your mobile number (wherever you use it, use the full area code or the verification will fail!).
- Edit the mobile number.
- On “Text Settings”, UNcheck the box “Receive text messages on this phone (mobile phones only)”. You do NOT want real text messages going through your cellular provider.
Now test it before moving on to the next steps by having someone send you a text message on your new Google voice # (not your old cell #). If it shows up in your inbox on your Google Voice web page, continue on… Also, you’ll have to have a data plan for this to work:
- Download and install the Google Voice app for your Android or Blackberry phone using the marketplace for your respective handset.
- Configure your Google Voice app on your phone by telling it your mobile # and your Google Voice #, your Google voice login, etc…
- Have someone text you again on your Google Voice #. If you’ve done everything right now, you should have received the text message on your phone, but NOT like you’ve been receiving it. You should be seeing them in your Google Voice app on your phone. You should NOT have also received a copy direct to your phone via your cell provider. Refer to #6 above.
- Now, send a test text message to your friend, using the Google Voice app on your phone (you’ll no longer send text messages the way you have in the past with your cell phone!). Your friend should have received it as normal from their perspective, except it should be shown as coming from your Google Voice #, not your cell #. If it came from your cell #, then you did not use the Google Voice app to send it.
- Assuming everything has worked, call your cell provider and cancel your texting plan. In addition, be SURE to put a FULL TEXTING BLOCK on your line. DOUBLE verify that it’s blocked. Then call back to talk to another operator and validate it’s been blocked. I recommend recording the conversation and transcribing it with date and time. Both Verizon and T-Mobile have not honored my requests for full blocking and keep trying to charge me for spam texts and the occasional friend text that still comes to my cell # instead of my Google Voice #, even though they’re supposed to be BLOCKED!. I STRONGLY encourage you to call SEVERAL times to validate the block and to validate it every time you need to call them for any cell phone issues. TAKE THE NAME OF THE OPERATOR(S) THAT BLOCK IT!
From this point forward, stop giving out your cell # and start giving out your Google Voice #. When people call it, it’ll ring to your cell. When they text it, you’ll get it because of your installed Google Voice app. (Sorry iPhone users… You’ll never have the app because Apple refuses to let Google put their app in the iPhone app store).
Free texting for iPhones and others:
If there’s no native Google Voice app for your handset, you can still have free texting, but it’s not as good. This also requires a data plan.
- Follow steps 1-6 above for creating a Google Voice account if you don’t already have one.
- Follow steps 3 & 4 above (the 2nd 3 and 4, not the 1st 3 and 4).
- From your phone’s browser, go to http://google.com/voice and log into your account.
- Send a text message from there.
- To receive, you’ll have to manually look to see if any have arrived… kind of like managing e-mail. You will NOT get auto-notified when a text message comes in.
- If you’re OK with this limitation, then follow step 5 above for cancelling your text plan.
Google Voice has a LOT more features than this. This is not intended to be a full tutorial on Google Voice. It’s an article showing you how to drop your outrageously, expensive texting plan while continuing to have texting ability.
Not only that, but you’ll get all the other cool features of Google Voice like:
- Call screening (optionally, make people state their name before the phone rings to you, then you decide whether or not to answer or send them to v-mail).
- V-Mail screening (You can listen, live, to people leaving you voice mail and cut in to answer… just like your old answering machine from the late 80’s and early 90’s.
- Free, unlimited calling!
- Listen to your voice mail from any browser.
- Text messages copied to your e-mail.
- Reply to text messages from e-mail.
- View your text messages in a browser.
- Send text messages from a browser.
- Automatic transcribing of v-mail.
- Transcribed voice-mail e-mailed to you.
- Record your phone calls.
- Ring multiple phones simultaneously.
- Ring multiple phones, one at a time, until someone answers.
- Create groups of contacts and give each group a customized v-mail greeting.
- Plenty more.