TextNow Cell Phone Plans Review

You can get a free talk and text phone plan, with a few caveats.
Overall Rating 3.5 out of 5
Free service option
Decent coverage
Ads on free plan

If you’ve heard anything about TextNow, it’s probably that the company offers free cell phone service. Yes, the rumors are true. Check it out.

But TextNow is not a one-trick pony. It offers other plans, including a cheap unlimited data option. And there are a few caveats to the word free. We’ll talk about all of it in this TextNow review.

But how does a free plan work, really?

You’re probably wondering what is TextNow wireless and how does it offer free service?

While TextNow started as one of many voice over internet protocol (VoIP) apps that basically run a telephone line through your Wi-Fi, it’s now a full-fledged mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). That’s just a fancy way of saying that it offers phone service using another carrier’s network.

Running service through another company’s cell phone towers allows TextNow to cut costs significantly, and offer you, the customer, a free cell phone plan. The company makes money off its free plan by displaying ads to its customers.

Let’s talk more about this free plan and TextNow’s other offerings.

TextNow wireless plans

Free wireless service for the people, and a decent unlimited plan for those who want to pay

Pros

  • Free unlimited talk and text option
  • Decent unlimited data option

Cons

  • Free service has ads
  • Limited phone selection

What we like

TextNow’s tagline is “phone service for everyone,” and the company really does seem committed to that goal. Besides the company’s famously free talk and text plan, it offers several affordable plans with data (and without ads).

Let’s take a closer look at TextNow’s best attributes.

Free service option

TextNow made its name by offering free phone service. Free unlimited talk. Free unlimited text. Free? Like, really free? Yes. As in no money, nada, zero dollars.

The catch is (you knew there’d be a catch) that you have to watch advertisements. Yep, you’ll have to use the TextNow app to watch a commercial for Humira or whatever until you’ve got enough credit call your aunt Mildra back.

Also, if you’re on the free plan you’ll be stuck on Sprint’s not-so-great network. But hey, it’s hard to argue with free.

One more thing: you’ll have to buy a SIM activation kit to get started. The kit is, well, not free. It costs ten bucks. At least the shipping is free?

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Looking for a ridiculously cheap plan?
TextNow has a free option, but there are plenty of other ways to get great phone service without paying an arm and a leg.

Decent unlimited data option

TextNow’s free plan has some obvious appeal. Meanwhile, it’s middle of the road plans are just kind of worse versions of plans offered by companies like Mint Mobile and Tello.

But TextNow’s Unlimited LTE Plan is actually a pretty good deal. For just $40 a month you’ll get unlimited talk, text, and data. And by unlimited data, we mean 23 GB of LTE data. After that you’ll be reduced to 2G speeds, which is like going from broadband internet to dial-up (not good).

What we don’t like

It’s hard to knock a free service plan, but that’s our job as reviewers. To complain. So here are some things that bother us about TextNow’s service.

Advertisements on free service

TextNow is kind of like Spotify: you can get the free version, but you’ll pay for it with ads. Prepare yourself for videos to pop up after calls, banner ads within the TextNow app, and full-page ads that will take over your whole screen.

This might not seem like a big deal if you don’t use your phone that often. But for most us, looking at an ad for Old Spice every time we want to text our spouse is going to get on our nerves.

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So you like getting more for less?
If you love saving money and don’t mind a few advertisements then TextNow isn’t the only recommendation we have. Check out these super-cheap cable TV plans.

Limited phone selection

We’ll do a more in-depth TextNow phones review below, so for now we’ll just say there are not a ton of options. TextNow tends to prioritize cheaper and older models. This is great if you want to save some dough. It’s not so great if you want an iPhone 11.

How do TextNow’s plans compare?

Believe it or not, TextNow does have some competition in the free talk and text plan category. Here’s a look at how the company’s free plan compares to other free (or basically free) plans.

Cheap plans comparison

TextNow family plans

You can add your family and friends to your TextNow account 

Pros

  • Add up to ten lines

Cons

  • No discounts on family plans

What we like

TextNow lets you add up to 10 lines to your plan. You can manage all of the lines using one central account, making for simplified billing.

For those who aren’t part of families like the Duggars on 19 Kids and Counting, you can add really anyone to your plan, related or not. That includes friends, boyfriends, roommates, and random acquaintances.

What we don’t like

Before you rush to call your estranged uncle to see if he wants in on your phone plan, take note: you won’t really get anything out of it.

There’s one big problem with TextNow’s family plan. It doesn’t come with any discounts or perks. If you have a family plan with three lines, you’ll pay the same amount and get the same benefits as you would if you signed up for the plans separately.

How do TextNow family plans compare?

Since TextNow’s family plans aren’t really a great deal at all, you might want to check out this review of great family plans or the plans listed in this chart.

Cheap family plans comparison

TextNow coverage

TextNow uses two different networks to give customers decent coverage 

TextNow has millions of customers, but it’s still a small fish in the big pond that is the telecommunications industry. The company definitely doesn’t have the money to go building a cellular network from scratch.

So, what carrier does TextNow use to give its customers service? It actually uses two networks: Sprint and T-Mobile. As stated above, customers on the free plan will have access to Sprint’s network. Other customers will have access to either Sprint or T-Mobile, depending on their device.

Here’s a peek at these networks’ coverage maps so you can see how good coverage is in your area.

If you want to learn more about the major carriers’ network coverage, check out our review.

TextNow cell phones and devices

You can pick up a cheap Motorola or LG device, but not the new iPhone model. 

Buying a phone from TextNow is kind of like buying a pair of headphones at Big Lots. You’ll save a bunch of money and you’ll be able to listen to Lady Gaga’s new album without your housemates knowing. But you’re definitely not getting Bose sound quality or a pair of wireless AirPods.

In other words: TextNow has a limited phone selection that focuses on discount devices. No iPhone 11s or Galaxy S20s here. Just take a look at the most popular phones that people buy through TextNow.

If these phones seem too old school for you, then check out these awesome deals on top-line devices.

TextNow customer service

Most folks seem to think TextNow’s customer service is top-notch

Smaller MVNOs like TextNow aren’t usually included in consumer satisfaction surveys, like the American Customer Satisfaction Index.1 But one way of gauging how happy customers are with a company’s service is to look at app reviews.

On the Google Play store, where Android users get their apps, the TextNow app maintains a 4.4 star rating with 760,000+ reviews.2 That’s pretty impressive, actually.

On the Apple Store the app has more than 180,000 reviews and maintains a 4.7 star rating. Not bad, TextNow. Not bad at all.

Recap: Is TextNow good?

Let’s cut to the chase: is TextNow worth it? We think it’s a great deal for those who want to spend nothing (or next to nothing) on their cell phone plan. Here’s a recap of the highlights.

  • Plans: TextNow’s free plan will get you unlimited talk and text on Sprint’s network. You’ll just have to put up with the advertisements. The company’s unlimited data plan is a decent deal for those who need more (and can spend more).
  • Family plans: TextNow is not the best carrier if you’re looking for a great deal on multiple lines. The company doesn’t offer any family plan discounts.
  • Overall performance: TextNow uses two networks (Sprint and T-Mobile) to offer decent coverage and data speeds. Customer reviews show that most customers are happy with TextNow’s app.

If ready to get free phone service (and watch a few ads) then go ahead and sign up for TextNow right now.

Make the most of your TextNow plan

If you’ve got a low-data or no-data plan then you’ll want to make sure your home internet connection is fast. That way, you can connect your phone to Wi-Fi and stream, game, scroll, post, and swipe to your heart’s content!

Recommended internet plans

Here’s a quick review of the best home internet plans.

Recommended Internet Providers
ProviderMonthly priceDownload speedsLearn more
Xfinity Internet$24.99$299.95*152000 MbpsView Plans
CenturyLink Internet$49$6515940 MbpsView Plans
AT&T Internet$49.99$50100 MbpsView Plans
Viasat Internet$30$150^12100 MbpsView Plans
Verizon Fios$39.99$79.99°200940 MbpsView Plans
Data effective 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* For the first 12 months. Some packages require a 1- or 2-year contract.
New customers only. Rate requires paperless billing and excludes taxes. Additional fees apply.
For the first 12 months with a 1-year agreement.
^ For the first 3 months.
° w/Auto Pay + taxes. Equipment charges may apply.

FAQs

Q: Is TextNow really free?

Yes, mostly. You do have to buy a $10 SIM card activation kit to get started. After that you can use TextNow’s free service plan, as long as you’re willing to watch ads.

Q: Who owns TextNow?

Unlike some other MVNOs, TextNow is not owned by one of the Big Four mobile companies. The company’s founder and CEO is named Derek Ting.

Sources: 

  1. American Customer Satisfaction Index, “ACSI Wireless Service and Cellular Telephone Report 2019-2020
  2. Google Play, “TextNow Free Texting and Calling App
  3. Apple Store, “TextNow: Call + Text Unlimited