- Free text apps offer different features than the standard SMS texting app built into your phone.
- Many third-party texting apps offer better security and privacy, extensive group chats, WiFi texting, and more.
- Here are seven of the best free text apps available for both iOS and Android.
- Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.
Your phone comes with a built-in texting app, but you might not always want to use it. After all, SMS texting uses your wireless plan, which might cost you money — especially when roaming internationally. There are a slew of free texting apps that can use WiFi instead or have other advantages beyond the standard texting app on your phone. Here are seven of the best options that are available for both iPhone and Android.
WhatsApp is the most popular texting app in the world with over 2 billion users, which means that if you need to text someone, there’s a pretty good chance that they are already using WhatsApp on either iOS or Android. Among its many features, WhatsApp supports free texting, photos, videos, file transfers, voice messaging, and video chat. It does that with full end-to-end encryption, as well. And because you can have group chats with up to 256 participants or video calls with four people, it can accommodate plenty of communication scenarios.
Viber isn’t as well known in the US, which means you might struggle to get other users to install it on their iOS or Android device. Even so, it’s a well-rounded text messaging app that can handle the full range of communication needs. You can use it for text chats with up to 250 users at once, as well as make voice and video calls with up to 40 simultaneous participants. Viber features full end-to-end encryption for all text and calls, and you can exchange secret keys with select contacts for enhanced security. With a Viber Out subscription, you can also use the app to make calls to any landline or mobile phone number, even if that person doesn’t have a Viber account.
Messenger is Facebook’s messaging service, though it’s a standalone app for iOS and Android, and you don’t even need to be a Facebook user to take advantage of it. Even so, it earns much of its popularity due to its connection to Facebook and the fact that it’s convenient to message while using the social media platform. Messenger supports group texts with up to 150 users at once, and you can also send voice and video messages. And while conversations aren’t encrypted by default, you can switch to Messenger’s “secret” mode, which applies end-to-end encryption to your text messages.
Telegram is focused almost solely on texting, with less emphasis on video chats. It supports a virtually unlimited number of users — you can text up to 200,000 users at once. While Telegram is not end-to-end encrypted out of the box, you can send secret chats that self-destruct after a set time, so there’s no record of them on your iOS or Android device. You can, of course, send photos, files, and audio along with text. You can take any one-on-one chat to video, but group chats can only be upgraded to voice calls.
While many texting services have, in recent years, added end-to-end encryption, Signal had it baked into text, voice, and video conversations from the beginning. It’s also operated by a nonprofit organization that has no stated interest in reselling your private data, nor does the app have any advertisements. All that adds up to Signal being an excellent choice for secure, private and safe texting. While it’s available for iOS and Android, Android users have an additional benefit: You can configure Signal to replace the phone’s default messaging app as the default text app, though only conversations with other Signal users will be encrypted.
Signing up for TextNow means you can use your phone (iOS or Android) even without a traditional wireless data plan — when you sign up, TextNow sends you a SIM card for your phone that gives you voice and texting over its cellular network, with your own phone number, for free. That makes TextNow a great option for a backup phone or a phone to give your kid. This doesn’t give you any data, so you’ll still need WiFi to use ordinary apps. But TextNow gives you the basics including texting for free, though the TextNow app will host banner ads to pay the bills.
Like TextNow, Text+ can give you voice calling and texting on iOS and Android. Unlike TextNow, which sends you a SIM card, Text+ uses your phone’s WiFi, which you’ll need to for Text+ to work. You get a phone number, unlimited free texting, and your outbound voice calls cost $0.02 per minute (incoming calls are free).