Texting is probably the most important feature on a phone these days, so having a good alternative to the built-in texting app on the iPhone is worth a try - especially if it saves money. When I first started my iPhone plan back on June 29th, 2007, I added the $15/month texting plan. I rarely went over my allotment, and often considered downgrading my texting plan to the $5/month 200-texts plan. Not until I came across two free texting apps in the app store did I make this change a reality.

I tested out two free-texting apps: Textfree Unlimited and textPlus. When I bought it, textFree was $4.99 and textPlus was/is free. Both apps have landscape typing (a big deal for me), and both have push notification. Thanks to iPhone 3.0 software, applications can send their own notifications - this means when you get a text from textFree or textPlus, you'll get a popup that looks identical to what you're used to when you see a regular text. Basically, with push notification, these two apps work identically to the native text messaging app that comes with the iPhone.

After using both apps for about a month, I immediately downgraded my AT&T texting plan to 200-texts at $5/month. This way, when I need to text someone I haven't texted before, I'll use 1 of my 200 texts. When I get a response, I'll pull up textFree or textPlus to send them back a message (and ask for them to respond to my second text, coming from the free-texting app). Using one of these free-texting apps saves me $10/month - thats $120 a year in savings!

There really is only one drawback to using one of these apps - the number that the person you're texting sees is not your cell phone number. The number is actually a unique number that's associated to your cell phone number. Once your friends get used to this number, and hopefully associate it with your contact info on their cell phones, it isn't much of an issue. Due to this drawback, I haven't stopped paying for texts completely - I still have my 200/month reserve.

So you ask which app is better? The answer is they're both great and each have their own advantages. If I had to choose, I'd go with textPlus for these reasons:

1. textPlus is free to buy, whereas textFree is $4.99 to buy. There is a free trial-version of textFree, and I suggest you download that to compare the two yourself.
2. textPlus has the ability to text groups of people, not just individuals. It also makes it easy to add people to existing text conversations.
3. Not that big a deal, but textPlus just looks nicer than textFree. I like the grey background and the brighter colors, but to each his own (see image above).