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!