Textfree is more than its name suggests. In addition to letting you text your friends for free (even your friends who don't have the app), as well as chat via Facebook, this app lets you send and receive phone calls for free or cheaply. However, Textfree has some limitations.
After you download the app, Textfree asks permission to access your Contacts, after which you create an account with a username, password, age, gender and email. The app then asks to use your current location. Then, you must choose a phone number; we wish you could keep your phone number like with such apps as Viber and WhatsApp.
Textfree also gives you the option to sync it with your Facebook account -- a feature not offered by Google Hangouts.
Textfree is available for Android, iOS, Mac and PC.
Click to EnlargeTextfree has a simple, blue-and-white home screen that serves as your inbox. A top navigation bar contains icons for Favorites, Recents, Contacts, Keypad, Options and Compose. There's an annoying ad bar at the bottom that clutters the otherwise clean interface and, at times, takes up more than half of the display within conversations. In comparison, TextPlus has a bottom ad bar, but it doesn't obstruct your conversations.
Favorites has spots for nine contacts; simply tap on a rectangle and type a friend's name to add him or her to the list. We like that there's a place to stash those contacts you talk to more often. Recents lists your most recent calls. Contacts sorts first by Facebook friends and then by your phone's Contacts. Keypad lets you manually type in a number, perhaps for someone who isn't saved in your Contacts. Options contains your account info, along with your number of remaining minutes and the ability to hide ads for $5.99 per year. Compose lets you draft a message.
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Click to EnlargeYour friends don't have to download Textfree for you to reap its benefits. Simply text whomever you want, and the message sends with a "Sent from Textfree" sign-off. Your friends who don't have Textfree pay regular charges for texts, but you won't. Plus, users can Facebook Chat from within the app.
Although you can text internationally, albeit to only 35 countries, international voice calls aren't supported -- a feature we appreciated on Viber. Textfree users can call or text anyone using the Pinger app for free, regardless of the country in which you (or the person you're calling) are located.
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Textfree also offers several emoticons, but it doesn't have sticker functionality like Facebook Messenger and Viber do. Users can also send photos, but sending videos was not an option.
When we texted a friend (who doesn't have the app), messages went through promptly. However, photos are sent through a unique @Textfree.us email address instead of the phone number Textfree assigns you; we found this confusing and unnecessary.
Users can send Facebook messages to friends who are currently online; Facebook messages got delivered immediately and displayed a "Sent from Textfree" sign-off.
Textfree calls sounded like normal phone calls with clear audio.
Texting and incoming calls are free with Textfree, but outbound calls use voice minutes. Users start with 10 voice minutes for downloading Textfree, and can perform certain tasks to earn minutes. Or, users can purchase minutes: It's $1.99 for 100 minutes, $9.99 for 400 minutes and $18.99 for 1,000 minutes. International calling isn't supported. Messaging apps like Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger and Viber offer free domestic and international calling.
Although we like that Textfree lets you send unlimited free texts and picture messages to any number in the U.S. and Canada -- regardless of whether your recipient has the app -- the service does have its drawbacks. For instance, you can't use your real phone number, and although you can text people in up to 35 different countries, you can't call them; you have to download Pinger's other app for that feature. With other great messaging apps like Viber out there, we wouldn't put Textfree at the top of our list.