Pinger, known for its popular iPhone interface, has developed an application that many users are clamoring to message boards and review sites to cheer as another great innovation. Supporting America's pastime, texting, with a contract free, low cost iPhone/iPod utility, TextFree Unlimited gives the user unlimited messages, albiet with limited texting capabilities, at no per message cost. Achtung, baby, the app's title is slightly misleading.
With TextFree Unlimited texts are free to send and receive for the user. Friends and contacts who get those messages and reply to them still must pay their own service providers' costs, which is not unreasonable. If another iPhone-owning friend may be coerced into signing up for TextFree Unlimited as well, you can communicate with one another via the application for free. Use of TextFree Unlimited requires a WiFi connection, which may or may not be free depending on the situation.
I couldn't persuade anyone to sign up and text via TextFree Unlimited with me — one response in particular specifying that user would rather have the ability to send photos and not have to receive email messages in addition to texts. Touché.
Notification of the texts is an issue that users seem to be divided on. Since users will only know about a text if they have the app open, TextFree Unlimited can send an email to alert texters of a new message. It not only seems redundant, but cumbersome for those who use TextFree as their primary means of texting.
I have a wireless plan that allows me 1,500 texts a month. 1,500 emails would be an enormous hassle — I grew annoyed with the few I collected while testing the app. An email for each text is superfluous: why not just send the email from your device in the first place? Luckily, it's a feature that can be turned off.
It's not TextFree's fault, but without push notification it's hard to rely on the app for texting. Isn't the immediate presence of a vibration, light or ring tone to alert that a text has arrived, pretty crucial? Especially when minutes lapse between texts— and sometimes the text alerts lag.
Another minor issue is that contacts aren't available within the app. This is a problem that I imagine that iPhone users can overcome by importing them. As a touch user, I had to have my cell phone in hand to retrieve numbers. Conversely, folks receive TextFree users' texts with a random number attached. TextFree Unlimited's developers say this may change in a future update.
Much like Apple's SMS text app, TextFree Unlimited can only be used in portrait mode and doesn't have a horizontal option. Many users are put off by this lack of versatility.
On the plus side, TextFree Unlimited does support emoticons.
However, I didn't find that TextFree Unlimited is useful enough — even with emoticons — to justify its use. If you can get your friends to buy the app and you send a lot of messages, the money you can save might create more incentive to use this free text messaging app. It's also nice for iPod touch owners that want to send text messages from their device.