The Holy Grail of Avoiding Roaming Charges – textPlus+ Free Calls for iPhone

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I have spent the past year blogging about ways to avoid roaming charges, with a concentration on obtaining SIM cards in various countries to avoid data roaming charges.

Roaming charges associated with voice calling and texting/SMSing have also been discussed, although to a lesser degree.  The advent of the Dell Voice some time ago finally brought inbound Canadian calling to an iPhone app, and for some time there have been a number of apps available that allow you to avoid the 75¢-or-so charge levied by the Canadian carriers to send a text from outside of Canada.

The main wrinkle in using apps to avoid voice and text message roaming fees is that the apps were produced by unique companies that each assigned their own phone number to your account.  Nobody had yet written an app to allow you to consolidate in-app inbound voice calling and texting in to one phone number. This week that problem has been solved.

textPlus+ is an app I have been using for several months to send and receive text messages when outside of Canada.  It assigns you a free inbound Canadian phone number in most of the metropolitan areas, that anybody can text you on (and you can respond through, for free).

This week the same company released textPlus Free Calls to Canadian users.  It’s a separate app but integrates with your existing textPlus+ account to allow you to receive inbound phone calls on the same number you are currently using to receive inbound text messages.  Inbound calls are free, outbound calls are free to other textPlus+ phone numbers, and calls to the rest of the US and Canada can be purchased in bulk lots within the app.  75 minutes are $1.99, 400 minutes are $9.99 and 1000 minutes are $19.99 (which calculates out to between 2¢ and 2.6¢ per minute).  This is competitive with most other offerings, but the free inbound Canadian phone number for voice AND text is the kicker.

The only drawback with textPlus Free Calls is that it does not include voicemail.  Since other voice-only offerings, such as Dell Voice, do include voicemail, hopefully they will eventually add that feature.  textPlus Free Calls does provide a history of inbound calls that were not answered though, so at least you’ll have the caller ID from missed calls.

We can now replicate all of the features of our voice plan, in-app on the iPhone, so it’s time to start switching over to data-only carrier plans & avoid all the unnecessary domestic voice airtime and feature fees, not to mention roaming fees!

  • Amy Higgins

    Jason- Love your blog. Tons of helpful hints all about traveling. 
    BTW-What’s your twitter handle?

    • Oddly enough, it’s jasonbelsey 😉

      • Amy Higgins

        Thanks. Tweeting away 🙂

  • Fred

    I really like this idea but I’m having trouble finding data only SIM cards in Canada, they all seem to come with minutes attached. Not the end of the world I suppose, but do you have sources for data only SIM cards that you recommend?

    • Easy – just sign up for an iPad plan at your carrier.  They’re all data-only.

      • Fred

        Thanks Jason, anything you’ve heard about the iPhone 5 that makes you think using the iPad SIM card won’t work?

        • They do use different SIM cards, so it won’t be easy to interchange the iPhone 5 and iPad SIMs for the time being.  The iPhone 5 will use a new nanoSIM standard whereas the iPad uses a microSIM like the iPhone 4/4S.  The chip itself is the same size though, it’s just the amount of plastic surrounding it that differs, so we should be able to cut the microSIM down to nanoSIM size, but I haven’t read anything online about that possibility yet.

  • Hellokitty

    hi..if i have a sim card activated with rogers and have my normal plan, talk,text,data.  Now I am going to the US for work.  Do I just download this app, sign up and then have my wife call and text that new number.  Main question is can I use the rogers sim card and not get charged for any talking or texting assumign I am using that app.  Also does the app use any data.  Thanks

    • TextPlus will use the data side of your iPhone, so you should only use it while on a WiFi network while in the US, otherwise you’ll be charged outrageous data roaming fees – although sending and receiving texts via data is likely cheaper than sending texts the normal way.  Otherwise, it does function the way you described, and it will be completely free to use if you’re on WiFi (unless you’re staying in a hotel or using a hotspot that charges by the hour or by the day, then you’ll just be paying those flat WiFi fees).

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