AT&T decided to kill off all texting plan options but its $20 unlimited plan this month.As of August 21, you can no longer get the 1,000 message plan for $10 per month. (That was a sweetspot for many users.)
If you don’t want to play by AT&T’s (or any other carrier’s) rules when it comes to texting plans, there are plenty of apps for every platform that will let you do it for free.
Many give you a new number to text from, but alerting your friends to your new digits is a small price to pay. We gathered our favourite free texting apps for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone here.
Kik takes what people love about BlackBerry Messenger and brings it to all three major smartphone platforms. Like BBM, messages on Kik are sent almost instantly and you get a notification when it is delivered and received. The app is free, and you get unlimited messages.
Kik scans your address book for new friends, so be sure to add your phone number when you register so they can find you.
When you sign up for a Google Voice account, you're getting more than an alternate phone number. You can also send unlimited free texts from Gmail or your phone. Google Voice's smartphone app sends you alerts when you receive new texts, just like the app that came pre installed on your phone. Your conversations are saved online too, so you can view them later.
Click here to get the app for Android, iPhone, and Blackberry.
Fring is a messaging app that connects to the major instant message networks such as AIM, Google Talk, ICQ, MSN, and Facebook. You can also make voice and video calls to other Fring members for free, even if they are using a different phone. Chances are, your contacts use one or more of these networks, so running this smartphone app in the background is a good move.
textPlus is an app that assigns you a real phone number for sending and receiving text messages on your phone. The service assigns you a phone number, or you can pay $1.99 to pick one from your area code. Other features include the ability to send photo messages (it only works if recipient is using the app too) and view profile photos for your contacts.
Like TextPlus, TextNow will assign you a new phone number to text from your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. If someone calls your new number, you can have the call instantly forwarded to your phone or voicemail.
TextNow is free for the ad-supported version, but you can pay $0.99 per month or $5.99 per year to hide them.
Download for free in for iPhone.
Meebo's smartphone app is similar to Fring. You can log in to all the major instant message services with one screen name and it supports AIM, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, MSN Messenger, Facebook, and ICQ. Both Meebo and Fring are great options, but we like Meebo's interface better.
WhatsApp is a simple messaging service for smartphones. In addition to texts, WhatsApp also allows you to send unlimited multimedia messages such as audio, video, or photos within the app. And unlike many of its competitors, the service is ad-free.
If you don't mind looking at ads, Textfree by Pinger is another solid option. This iPhone-only app will assign you a new phone number that you can send and receive texts from. Beyond that, it's pretty straightforward. The app is free, but if you want to hide the ads, you'll have to pay $5.99 per year.
Group me not only lets you text for free within its app, it also lets you form groups so one number sends the message to everyone at once. It's not a unique concept. There are a ton of group messaging apps out there. But since it was acquired by Skype last week for ~$85 million, GroupMe is definitely the hottest option right now.
When iOS 5 launches, iPhone users will be able to text each other for free thanks to Apple's new iMessage service. Think of it as BBM without the buddy lists. The interface looks exactly like the iPhone's SMS app, except messages will not count against your plan.
We expect iOS 5 to go public in September.
Only Google Voice has it all without charging for extras: You can choose your own area code (assuming it's available), you never have to see ads, it's available on iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry, and it doubles as a secondary phone line with voicemail. We use it. We love it.