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The average cost of a cellphone plan rose to $113/mo. this year — more than most people pay for heating, electricity, internet and TV. With such a costly expense, it might be surprising to learn that you can use your phone’s most essential features, calling and texting, entirely for free.
There are currently dozens of apps available in the U.S. that provide free talk and text when you’re connected to Wi-Fi. In almost every case, they let you choose your number (from a pool of available area codes), then show you a few ads in the app in exchange for free calling and texting. You can then text or call any phone number in the country — not just ones that use the same app.
Of course, you won’t be able to call, text or use internet away from a Wi-Fi connection, so your phone will lose a lot of functionality. (Some services, like TextNow, do give you the option of connecting to a nationwide network for a one-time fee.) But if you’re looking for a completely free phone line, these are excellent resources.
We downloaded and tested out ten of the most popular options according to ratings from Google Play and the App Store. To evaluate them, we looked for things like simple setup, a clean interface and high-quality phone calls.
1. TextNow: Best free calling and texting app
If you’re looking for a simple app that lets you text and call for free, we recommend trying out TextNow first. It’s the most reputable and well-liked free texting and calling service in the U.S., with a 4.4 rating on a whopping 844K reviews in Google Play and a 4.8 rating on 297K reviews in the App Store.
TextNow works like most other free calling apps: You choose your own free phone number, and it provides you with free phone calls and texts when you’re connected to Wi-Fi. What’s more, you can use TextNow on your tablet and desktop along with your smartphone.
But unlike similar services, TextNow also gives you the option to send texts and make calls when you’re away from a Wi-Fi connection. For a one-time purchase of $10, they’ll send you a SIM activation kit that gives you access to Sprint’s nationwide network. To check if your phone is compatible, just enter your IMEI, MEID or ESN number on TextNow’s SIM connection page. (They’ll walk you through where to find this information.) And if you already have a compatible phone on a CDMA network, you can add coverage right from the TextNow app.Sign up for TextNow
2. Google Voice: Free texts and calls without the ads
Google has a few communication apps — Duo and Hangouts do video calls, Chat does messaging — but Google Voice is the best choice for anyone who wants to send texts or make calls for free. Setup is incredibly simple: Just download the app and choose the number you want to use. From there, you’ll be able to make free calls and texts from anywhere in the U.S. and Canada that has a Wi-Fi connection. Google Voice also includes free voicemail storage through the app, and it will even transcribe them for you. Google also provides a Chrome extension for your computer.
Overall, this is one of the easiest-to-use apps that we tested, and a great choice for anyone who wants free calling and texting without a hassle. Best of all, there are no ads on the Google Voice app, so you’ll get a refreshingly uncluttered experience.Sign up for Google Voice
3. Text Free: Free texts and 60 minutes of calls a month
Text Free isn’t quite as good of a deal as some of the other apps on this list, but it’s worth checking out as a second or third option. As the name suggests, you’ll be able to send unlimited text messages as long as you’re on Wi-Fi. But phone calls are another story.
Calls that are inbound or made to other phones with the Text Free app are free and unlimited. But if you want to make calls yourself to a phone number that doesn’t use Text Free, you’ll only get 60 minutes per month. You can earn more minutes by watching video ads or purchase them directly — $2 for 100 minutes, $10 for 400 or $19 for 1,000. You can also remove the ads and get unlimited calling for $5/mo.Sign up for Text Free
4. textPlus: Free texting only
textPlus doesn’t offer free phone calls, but you’ll be able to send as many SMS and MMS text messages as you want at no cost. Like the other apps on this list, you’ll choose your own number and be able to send and receive texts whenever you’re on Wi-Fi. Inbound calls and voicemails are also free with textPlus, but if you want to make outbound calls, you’ll have to pay about $0.02 per minute.
Like most free calling and texting apps, you’ll have to put up with a few ads in the app itself. textPlus’s banner ads were a little more obtrusive than the other apps we tested, but they didn’t make the service unusable. It has also scored slightly lower ratings from users — 4.5 on the App Store and just 3.8 on Google Play.Sign up for textPlus
5. Dingtone: Free international calls
Like the rest of the apps on our list, Dingtone provides you with a phone number of your choosing, and lets you send as many text messages as you want — as long as you’re connected to Wi-Fi. You can make as many calls as you want over data or Wi-Fi, as long as the person you’re calling is using the Dingtone app, too. This means you can call family and friends around the globe without paying a cent.
If you want to make calls to numbers outside the app, you’ll have to earn free credits by watching videos or completing daily check-ins. You can also pay for phone calls directly; calls in the U.S. cost $0.09 per minute.
Dingtone wasn’t the best app we tested. There were a lot of ads, and it pushed us to sign up for a premium subscription at seemingly every step. Overall, it just felt a little spammier than apps like TextNow and Google Voice. But if you’re looking for a simple way to make free international calls, Dingtone will get the job done.Sign up for Dingtone
Free calling and texting FAQS
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Written by:Joe Supan
Senior Writer, Broadband Content
Joe oversees all things broadband for Allconnect. His work has been referenced by Yahoo!, Lifehacker and more. He has utilized thousands of data points to build a library of metrics to help users navigate these … Read more
Edited by:Shannon Ullman
Editor, Broadband & Wireless Content
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