Are you looking for a second phone number? Or do you need a phone number to receive SMS notifications and 2FA texts, but you don’t have a sim card?
There are many great VoIP apps that allow you to get a free number that works over the internet. These apps, like TextNow and TextFree, don’t require you to have a sim or even an eSim.
Instead, you get a special phone number that works over the internet. Despite that, you can text people with real numbers, and they can text you — you are not limited to communicating only with people who also have VoIP numbers.
Not only that, but with a VoIP number, you can call other cell phones and even landlines!
Today, I will be comparing TextNow and TextFree, two popular VoIP apps. I will look at things such as app interface, pricing, features, ease of use, and more.
If you’re looking for a TextNow alternative, check out these 10 awesome TextNow alternatives.
Let’s get into it.
TextNow allows you to sign up using your Gmail or Facebook account. You can also sign up via email.
Once you sign up, you will be asked what you will be using TextNow for, so they can customize your experience. Select “Other” if you don’t have any particular purpose.
Also Read: Twilio vs Vonage
To sign up for TextFree, you will need to use your email address. As of now, there is no option to sign up with your Gmail account or Facebook account.
TextNow allows you to enter an area code after signing up if you want a number with a specific area code. You can also let the app access your location, and it will display phone numbers with area codes near you.
Most phone numbers will be free. However, some phone numbers might come with a nominal fee of $4.99 a year or some other small amount.
It’s not necessary to pay for such a number, however, as they aren’t superior to the free numbers in any real way.
Another option is buying a SIM card from TextNow. After paying for the SIM card, you get free calls and texts over the regular cellular networks (not over the internet), supported by ads in the TextNow app.
That is something that TextFree does not offer.
TextFree will ask you to choose a number before signing up. After selecting a number, you will have 15 minutes to create your account; after those 15 minutes, your selection will expire.
Like TextNow, TextFree allows you to enter an area code to select a number.
However, I found that TextFree offered a much larger selection of numbers for any specific area code. While TextNow offered around five numbers, TextFree offered 10-20, depending on the area code.
TextNow allows you to send unlimited free text messages to US and Canadian numbers, regardless of where you are in the world. You do need to be in the US if you are using the TextNow sim card instead of a TextNow VoIP number.
However, you can not send international text messages. If you want to text with a friend who is abroad, they can use TextNow to get a US-based number.
Then, you can message them (you will both need an internet connection, as you will both be using VoIP numbers).
You can send images from your device. TextNow also integrates with GIPHY, allowing you to send GIFs, stickers, and animated emojis to friends; use the search bar to find relevant GIFs or stickers.
You can send a message to multiple people at once. You can either enter a new phone number to text or choose a number (or several numbers) from your contact list.
TextFree also allows you to send text messages to +1 numbers for free. You can also send international texts, unlike TextNow, but only to select countries (see here); also, you need to be using the app to do so, as you can’t send international texts from the web interface.
You can select a number or various numbers from your contact list. TextFree doesn’t integrate with GIPHY, but you can still send pictures from your gallery, take a picture with your camera and send it, or send an emoji using the built-in emoji keyboard.
You can make an unlimited number of domestic calls to any US or Canada number with TextNow. All calls to +1 numbers are entirely free!
That includes landline phones, mobile phones, and VoIP numbers from TextNow or other VoIP providers.
Since the calls go over the internet, you will need a stable internet connection.
While TextFree is a great app for texting, it’s not as good as TextNow for calling. That’s because you must have minutes to make domestic calls; once you run out of minutes, you need to buy more.
Minutes are relatively cheap. As of now, prices are as follows:
- 100 minutes for $1.99 (less than $0.02 per minute)
- 400 minutes for $9.99 (less than $0.025 per minute)
- 1,000 minutes for $18.99 (less than $0.019 per minute)
However, you don’t need to pay money to get minutes. If you only require a few minutes, you can watch videos to earn free minutes.
Alternatively, you can earn minutes by completing offers from the payroll. Offers might include:
- Downloading a certain app
- Playing a certain game and/or reaching a certain level
- Reading a chapter in a book
- Completing a survey
Not all the offers will necessarily be entirely free. However, the more time, effort, or money you have to spend on an offer, the more minutes you will earn.
So, who wins here? For domestic calling, TextNow is superior, as you can make an unlimited number of free calls, and without having to complete any offers.
TextNow isn’t just useful for calling +1 numbers. Indeed, you can place calls to phone numbers from other countries, over the internet!
While TextNow supports most countries, some countries are not included. For example, as of now, you can place calls to countries and regions such as:
- American Samoa
- Hong Kong
- Saint Lucia
- Vatican City
- Western Sahara
Of course, this is not a comprehensive list. As you can see, I’ve only selected 1-3 examples from each letter in the alphabet, just to show you that you can call all over the world.
Here are some countries that are NOT supported:
Out of all regions and countries, there are only 15-20 that are not supported.
Rates vary widely. For example, calls to Armenia start at 23 cents per minute. Calls to Belarus are much more expensive, starting at 67.9 cents per minute.
Making a call to Antarctica will cost you over $2.60 per minute. However, calling France will only cost you 1.3 cents per minute.
You can check international rates here.
Unfortunately, TextFree doesn’t support calling a lot of countries. According to this help article from TextFree, it supports calling to:
When I tried to place international calls to other countries with TextFree, it told me to share TextFree with my friends abroad, so they can get a US or Canadian number.
Therefore, TextNow is superior not only when it comes to domestic calling but for international calls as well.
TextNow supports video calling to all wireless phones! And the best part is that your friends don’t even need to have the TextNow app — as long as they have a smartphone, you can video call them via TextNow.
They can then join the video call without the TextNow app — as long as they have an internet connection. On your end, the video call will be in the TextNow app, but they can join from their phone’s built-in or downloaded browsers.
Since the video calls are online, they are free. However, TextNow can only send this invite link to people with a smartphone and a US or Canadian number.
Unfortunately, TextFree does not offer video calling of any kind. So, for video calling, TextNow is better.
I personally liked the TextNow interface better than TextFree’s. While that might be up to personal preference, and both of them have ads (unless you remove them — more on that later), I felt like TextFree’s ads were larger and more in your face.
In addition, TextNow’s interface felt more like Signal, a popular messaging app.
With TextNow, you can allow the app to show you floating chats, so you can text friends and see their conversations without opening the app and stopping what you are doing.
If you have used Facebook Messenger in the past, you might be familiar with this feature. The chat opens up above any other app you are using, and you can close or open it again by clicking on the little pop-up bubble that shows the profile image of the contact you are talking with.
You can move this floating bubble to any side of your screen, so it doesn’t interfere with what you are doing.
However, you can also customize how this popup appears. For example, it can show up in the middle of your screen as a popup instead of a floating bubble, so you can reply to a text without actually opening the app.
Also, you can set up quick replies, so you can send a short response to someone without opening the app.
Oh, wait, there’s more! You can create a signature that will appear at the bottom of each text (this is optional, and you can edit it at any time).
In addition, if you will be away from your phone and on your desktop, you can have the app send you emails whenever you get a text, so you don’t miss out on any important news or updates from friends or family.
I also liked how you can customize the display on TextNow. You can choose different color themes, for example, or select a wallpaper for the app.
To remove ads on TextNow, you can either pay for a premium, monthly subscription, or you can use credits to remove ads for a short period.
I’ll go over monthly pricing later. For now, let’s focus on removing ads with credits.
As of this writing, it costs $0.03 in credits to remove ads for 30 minutes. You can either buy credits or earn them by watching videos.
That’s a very affordable amount. It is useful if you are texting a friend for hours one night and don’t want to be buggered by ads all the time, but you don’t feel the need to sign up for a premium subscription.
Overall, TextFree seems to have fewer features than TextNow. For example, you can create a signature to be added to your text messages, but I didn’t find any information on quick replies or floating chats.
You can set up automatic text messages when you get a missed call, however. If you are going to be at work, for example, you can set up an autoresponder, so people know you are busy and will get back to them.
Also, while the ads on TextFree seem to be bigger, TextNow did have full-screen ads appearing often, which was annoying.
To remove ads on TextFree, you will need to sign up for a monthly plan. While you can get free minutes by watching videos and completing offers, that doesn’t seem to work for removing ads.
Premium users can enjoy call forwarding on TextNow and forward incoming calls to their regular numbers. You can change that number at any time.
Call forwarding is a useful tool. When someone calls your TextNow number, it will ring the number you set up call forwarding to.
You can also enable Elastic Calling. Elastic calling searches for the best route for any call:
- Mobile data
- Your cellular voice connection
Sometimes, your WiFi connection won’t be strong, but your 4G connection might be. For example, that can happen when you are walking outside your house; inside your house, the opposite might be true.
Elastic Calling constantly searches for the best connection between WiFi and 3G/4G. And, when both of them fail, it reroutes the call using your regular cellular connection!
As long as you are getting a cellular signal, you will have crisp and clear quality.
You can turn Elastic Calling on or off.
Keep in mind that when calls get placed through your cellular connection, you will be using up minutes on your phone plan. If you have unlimited minutes, this is nothing to worry about, but if you pay for a set amount of minutes, it’s something to be aware of.
TextFree, as I mentioned, allows you to set up an auto-response text message when you are away and someone calls you. I did not see that feature in TextNow.
In addition, TextFree allows you to forward all calls to voicemail, automatically, when you are busy. If you don’t want your phone to ring and disturb you, just turn this feature on.
TextNow, in addition to its Android and iOS apps, has desktop apps for both Windows and Mac computers. Not only that, but it also has a web app, allowing you to text your friends, over the internet, from most web browsers.
Supported browsers include Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Microsoft Edge. Internet Explorer is not supported.
TextFree also has apps for both Android and iOS and a web version, but no Windows or Mac app. Using the web version, you can sync your Google Contacts to your desktop browser.
On both platforms, you can enable desktop push notifications, so you don’t miss out on any messages.
However, there are some crucial differences between TextNow and TextFree when it comes to the web version. Overall, I felt that TextNow’s web version was cleaner and had fewer ads.
At the same time, TextNow allows you to text, call, and video call from the web version. TextFree, however, does not support calling from the desktop; you can only send text messages.
Overall, TextNow takes the lead once again.
One thing worth noting is that both TextNow and TextFree sync everything online. In that sense, it works like Telegram: You can sign in to your TextNow or TextFree account from any device and from multiple browsers, using your email or other supported login method (Facebook or Gmail).
If you send a message on one browser, it will be updated in the mobile app and anywhere else you sign in.
That’s unlike WhatsApp, which requires you to link or tether WhatsApp web to an active connection on your mobile phone. If you lose internet access on your mobile phone, the web version of WhatsApp will stop syncing; you can also only use one browser at a time.
WhatsApp is testing a new feature in which you can log in on up to four devices without having your phone connected, but it is still in beta.
TextNow recommends that you make an outgoing call or send an outgoing text message at least every two days to keep your number. It doesn’t give an exact timeline for when your number will expire after a period of inactivity, only saying that it depends on the area code.
You can also pay $4.99 to keep your number forever, even if your account is inactive.
If you do lose your number, you can always get a new one for free.
With TextFree, you can keep your number for free, for as long as you want. However, after 30 days of inactivity, your number will expire automatically.
For that to happen, you have to go 30 days without sending a text or making an outbound call. Receiving texts without replying or receiving inbound calls doesn’t count.
The price for keeping your number even if you are inactive is the same as TextNow: $4.99/month.
Here is one aspect in which TextFree wins against TextNow, as it has a clear policy about when numbers expire, and its grace period seems to be longer than TextNow. Needing to send a text every two days and worrying that your number might expire otherwise isn’t fun.
- Unlimited free domestic calls
- International calls to most countries
- Free video calling
- Remove ads for short periods for almost no cost
- No international texting
- No clear policy about expiring numbers
- International texting to some countries
- Earn minutes by watching videos
- You have 30 days until your number expires
- No free unlimited domestic calling
- No Microsoft or Mac app
- No video calling
Before talking about pricing, a quick disclaimer: Pricing is subject to change at any time. For updated pricing information for TextNow or TextFree, download the app and go to the upgrade section.
As of now, TextNow has two premium plans:
- Ad Free Lite: If you only want to remove most ads, without access to premium features, Ad Free Lite, at $1.99/month, is a good option. It’s cheap, and you will only have a single ad in the bottom banner.
- Ad Free+: This costs $9.99/month. It removes all ads, and you also get premium features like voicemail transcription and unlimited photo and video history. You also get to keep your number for as long as your subscription is active.
TextFree has a single premium plan: TextFree Plus, at $4.99/month. It removes all ads, allows you to keep your number forever, and get unlimited minutes!
TextNow is a lot better than TextFree.
With features such as unlimited free domestic calling, international calling, video calling, a desktop app, and a web app that supports calling, it’s a much better choice than TextFree, which doesn’t offer any of those.
Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.