TextingIn 2011, 2.3 trillion text messages were sent nation-wide, according to the Wireless Association (CTIA). While this number is astounding, it is expected to nearly quadruple by the end of 2012. Due to advancements in technology, texting has become one of the preeminent forms of communication all over the world. From letting our friends know we can meet for lunch to telling our children that we'll pick them up from the train station, we've forgone phone calls for text messages. And though text messaging is an efficient way to deliver information, it can get costly quickly. To eliminate this problem, dozens of apps have been created that offer free text messaging services!
One of my favorites is WhatsApp Messenger ($0.99, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and Nokia). It's a cross-platform smartphone messenger that allows you to text all over the world. Some of its standout features:
- Free, Unlimited, and Global: WhatsApp uses WiFi or your existing data plan (3G) to let you send and receive unlimited texts, photos, videos, and audios to other WhatsApp users. So no matter where you are in the world, you can chat with your friends at any time at no cost!
- Group Chat: Enjoy group conversations with your contacts. With WhatsApp, I can take a picture with my dad at a baseball game and share it with my siblings and mom with one click!
- No pins or usernames: WhatsApp works with your phone number, so it's like sending a normal text from your phone, and integrates flawlessly with your existing phone contacts. There's no need to exchange pins or usernames because any of your contacts who have WhatsApp will automatically be displayed. You can invite any who don't, to do so by text or email. This is especially great if, like me, you have 100+ contacts.
- Status: Useful for informing your contacts if you're busy, in a meeting, at the gym, or available for chat.
Similar free apps to check out include GroupMe (Apple, Android, Blackberry, Windows, SMS), KakaoTalk (Apple, Android, Blackberry, Samsung), and Viber (Apple, Android, Blackberry, Windows). One of the drawbacks to most of these is that they require anyone you chat with to have the same app. GroupMe circumvents this problem by allowing you to send text messages without having to download an app (or even have a smartphone!) if you would prefer. You just send text messages using the commands GroupMe provides. It doesn't allow geo-tagging and its format isn't as nice - but it's a simple alternative. Alternatively, Text+ (Apple, Android, Windows) gives you a new phone number - which is easily shareable through the app - to use for texting and exchanging voice messages through the app. By downloading Text+ you can turn your iPod touch or iPad into a phone! With this app you get free messaging to any Canadian or US mobile number (even ones that don't have Text+) as well as free messaging worldwide app-to-app. It has group text capabilities and works on 3G, 4G, or WiFi so you can message from anywhere
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If I haven't sold you on these options, you can always connect for free through instant messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, GTalk+, AIM, etc. With these free apps you can converse with your contacts who are using these programs via phone or web. There are also free apps like eBuddy Messenger, which track all of your instant messenger programs and threads. An added bonus: You have the ability to sign on or off individual accounts.
Why not utilize some of these free (or nearly free) messaging and social networking apps? You'll be able to share messages, photos, and videos with all of your friends and family members, guilt-free! Do you have any favorite messaging apps that cut texting costs? Let me know in the comments.
- by Rachel Rothman