For Android owners, textPlus is a great free SMS option. Getting started is surprisingly easy; you simply enter your first and last name, and the app takes you to a screen where you can compose your first message. Unlike other free SMS services, you don't need to pick and verify a username. When composing a text, users have the option of selecting a contact from an existing address book or manually typing in a phone number. If you punch in a number from your address book, a drop-down menu for those contacts will appear to make choosing your recipient easier.
Messages are threaded and separated by contacts. When you open a conversation, your messages appear in chat bubbles reminiscent of the iPhone's SMS app, but you and your friends' icons are left-aligned, so it looks a little awkward. Still, you can easily distinguish your own messages from your friends' by the default blue and green chat bubble colors.
Sending and receiving messages requires a data connection, so if you're in an area where reception is spotty, there may be delays in sending or receiving text messages. On our tests, messages coming from other phones on separate carriers sometimes took as long as three minutes to hit our Android device. Still, textPlus beats having to pay a fortune for per-use fees or messaging bundles.
Want to read about more apps that dash your text messaging costs? Check out Text Message for Free: Apps for Android, BlackBerry, and iPhone OS.