Review – TextNow Wireless Cell Phone and App

There are lots of options for cell phone users, and over the past years consumers have sought out lower cost options. Certainly apps like Skype have made it possible for folks to save on their data plans as long as they have a Wi-Fi network available. A new entrant into the pay-as-you-go cell phone space is TextNow who have combined several different approaches to save consumers money.

We have regularly reviewed pay-as-you-go and no-contract phones from Virgin Mobile in the past, and have watched as plans have changed to unlimited texting, caps on data, and lower minutes of talk time. Enter TextNow with a unique set of features to force a rethink of what can be done with existing technology.

How is TextNow different from other pay-as-you-go no-contract plans? First the linchpin for their service is an application that seeks out Wi-Fi whenever it detects a signal, and uses Wi-Fi to send texts, make calls, and download data. It uses Wi-Fi first, and only if a Wi-Fi signal isn’t found, does the phone switch to the cell network. This saves on your data cap, as well as cell phone calling minutes.

While most phones have apps you can download to make calls like Skype, but its not an automatic feature, you consciously need to turn off your mobile data connection, and then turn on your Wi-Fi phone app.

By integrating this into their app at the ground level of the phone's software, you never have to think about it, it just happens. One other cool option is that you are device independent; your TextNow phone number will work on your computer, phone, iPod Touch, or tablet. So, if you are sitting at your laptop, and don’t have your phone, no problem, a call to your number doesn't require your phone as long as you on a Wi-Fi network, and best of all, TextNow's mobile app is free. There is one downside and that is at press time there is a Mac OS app, but it isn't listed on their site, which only only shows the links for iOS. Until they update the site, the app is available here -

The phones can be incredibly inexpensive, for example the Moto G is $13.99. In our tests the Moto G worked well, had good sensitivity, and the battery life held up under use. And for $13.99 an amazing value. You can of course pay more, with the Samsung Galaxy SIII, Samsung Galaxy S4, Motorola Moto X, and the Nexus 5 on their list of phones. We only had the Moto G to test the service with, and look forward to testing it with a higher-end phone, but with the Moto G, it worked well. For parents, the Moto G and one of the low cost plans might be the best deal of all. 

There are no overage fees. You start out with varying amount of data at 4G LTE and 3G speeds, and if you go over, you have unlimited talk, text and data at 2G speeds. Their plans range from $19 to $60, depending on how much high-speed data you need. The cellular network is Sprint, and we find the reversal of the talk & text model a fascinating twist on the plans offered by cell phone providers. With most plans the talk aspect is the most expensive, by comparison TextNow provides unlimited talk, text, and plans differ in cost based on your high-speed data needs from 500MBs of data for $19, to 4GBs for $60. The plans are named after Starbucks coffee sizes, which we would love to see changed as no one at Mac Edition Radio are fans of Starbucks coffee. 

At the high-end, other no-contract providers offer unlimited text and talk and data for around the same price, but the data rate starts out at high-speed, and then is lowered as the data rate depending on how much data you have downloaded. And there are other no-contract providers with $20 dollar plans, but they are Wi-Fi only. For TextNow’s low cost plans, it’s an unbeatable deal.

We haven’t seen anyone offering such a low-cost plan with unlimited talk time, and no extra fees for going over your cap, just slower rates. We think that if you are in the market for a no-contract phone, TextNow's innovative plans come highly recommended.

Harris Fogel, with editorial input from Nancy Burlan, Posted 6/21/15

For more information on TextNow visit: