TextNow freemium messaging and VOIP calling app for Android, iPhone and Windows phone has launched a prepaid MVNO. Called TextNow phone, it's monthly service that runs on top of the Sprint 3G and 4G WiMAX data networks. Texts are sent using the data network and all calls use Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). The company claims that TextNow is the world's first all the first all-IP mobile phone operator.
Text now currently requires a TextNow phone although the company has plans to let customers bring their own Sprint phones sometime in the future. There are two phones available, a refurbished Samsung Nexus S is $89.99 and a Samsung Galaxy S II, also refurbished, is priced at $119.99. Shipping is $9 for either phone and you must pay for the first month of service when ordering a phone. Payment is by auto-pay using credit or debit cards only.
TextNow has three plans, all of which include unlimited texting and unlimited incoming calls. Plan prices are:
- Tall $18.99 for 500 MB of data and 750 minutes
- Grande $26.99 for 1 GB of data and 1250 minutes
- Venti $39.99 for 2 GB of data and 2000 minutes
TextNow supports call forwarding, caller ID and visual voicemail. Unused minutes roll over but data does not. There don't seem to be any additional taxes and fees on plans or phone purchases.
In an interview with CNET, Enflick CEO Derek Ting said that making calls also uses data, about 0.3 MB per minute which comes out of the plan data bucket. When asked, he agreed with the interviewer that users could use also any Android Voice app to avoid depleting their TextNow minutes. Calls made on WiFi are free according Mr. Ting.
TextNow looks interesting. While VOIP should work well over WiFi or a good WIMax connection I'm skeptical if call quality will be acceptable on a typical Sprint 3G connection.
The TextNow service also sounds a lot like FreedomPop's Freedom Phone, another Sprint based all IP phone service which is supposed to launch next month. However Freedom Phone will reportedly offer 500 MB of data, unlimited messaging and 200 minutes of VOIP calling for free. The free Freedom Phone service looks like it will be WiMAX only at launch with 3G service available at additional cost. FreedomPop hasn't disclosed Freedom Phone pricing but given that they currently offer 500 MB of 3G/4G mobile broadband data for $3.99/month I expect FreedomPop to undercut TextNow's pricing by a sizable margin.