There have been multiple times where I either couldn’t send a text, or I wasn’t receiving any because of spotty reception with somewhere I’m traveling. While AT&T can’t give me great coverage everywhere, WiFi is usually readily available where I go. The only problem with that is I can’t just switch over to WiFi for texting, not without help.
If you want to start texting on Android over WiFi, you’ll need an an app which comes with a few new benefits, and detractions. There aren’t any WiFi texting apps that use your original phone number, so you’ll need to set up a new one through the app, but after that, you can text as much as you want for free over WiFi.
It may sound like I’m contradicting myself already by bringing up WhatsApp which uses your phone number in some way, but hear me out. WhatsApp uses your phone number to confirm your account, and even uses your phonebook to find other WhatsApp users you already know, but this still means you and a contact both need to use the service.
However, to combat the fact that both users need to use the same service, Whatsapp brings a lot of useful features to the table, like video and picture sharing to make your messaging experience a better one.
Thankfully, WhatsApp already has a large install base, so if anyone you need to message over WiFi doesn’t already have WhatsApp, it won’t be that hard to convince them to hop on board. We’ve gone over WhatsApp before, but for WiFi texting specifically let’s go over the pros and cons.
- Easy to text over WiFi
- Lets you send pictures, videos, and audio recordings
- Works over mobile data when it’s available
- Has an encryption system
- Both users need WhatsApp
- Requires a phone number even while it doesn’t use it traditionally
- Sometimes only loads with WiFi
I decided to mention WhatsApp first since it’s probably the most well known and accessible way to text over WiFi on Android, but I still have more to mention after it. If you don’t already have WhatsApp on your phone, or got rid of it before, get it again here:
Text Free is an app I used back when I was stuck on an outdated plan with a limited about of texts, and a horribly restrictive data plan. I’d be stuck on WiFi most of the time, and Text Free was thankfully around to make sure my texts would still get through to the people that needed them.
Text Free is a different kind of experience from WhatsApp, since anyone you text with Text Free doesn’t need the service, even though there are certain perks if both of you are using the app while you send messages. It doesn’t stop at just texting either, it’s easy to use Text Free for WiFi calls too.
The biggest downside I can think of to Text Free is the number system. When you sign up for a Text Free account you’re given a number from a list, making that the number anyone will see in their messages. To make matters worse, if you don’t use your number in a while, there’s a chance you’ll lose it and have it taken by someone else.
There’s still plenty to like about Text Free, and at the price of free, it’s hard to beat.
- Easy to use to send texts and calls to any other number
- Interface is simple, as it should be
- Has groupchats and stickers
- Can be treated like a real US phone number
- You can lose your number if you don’t use it frequently
- Ads and in-app purchases abound
If you’re still unsure about the service, download it and try sending your actual number a text with your new one!
Signal Private Messenger
Let’s move back to something like WhatsApp, but with a bigger focus on security. If you’re on a connect you don’t know if you can trust, and feel like your texts aren’t protected, then Signal is for you.
I’m going to start with Signal’s biggest problem up front, which it shares with WhatsApp, where both you and your recipient need to have Signal to talk. This isn’t a problem if whoever you’re WiFi texting has the same security concerns, but it isn’t always easy to convince someone to download a new app.
Signal has almost exactly all of the same perks as WhatsApp, but it’s wrapped up in a more secure shell that leaves its users feeling safe and protected. There was a scare recently about Android encryption, and we talked about it more here if you haven’t already heard about it.
So if Signal and WhatsApp are pretty much the same, why should you chose one over the other? While the two are the same feature wise, Signal is more about privacy with the people you talk with, and staying away from the people you don’t want around.
- Options for group chatting
- Lets you send media files of multiple types
- Easy to communicate, and makes it even easier to clear old messages over time
- Encrypted and secure
- All participants need to download Signal
- Doesn’t hold onto messages for as long as other apps
- You can’t use your phone number to send messages traditionally
If you’re looking for something like WhatsApp, but want it from a company that has security as the first thought in their mind, take a look at Signal.
textPlus: Free Text & Calls
Next up is textPlus, an app that I think is a good, slightly more complex, alternative to Text Free. In the past, I’ve liked Text Free for the inherit simplicity, but with textPlus you have many more customization features to play with. At the same time, you still have most of the benefits that an app like Text Free provides.
You of course have free WiFi calling and texting, all from a real US phone number. Having a real phone number to use means you can text and call anyone without them needing to have the same app, making texPlus fairly easy to use. The only downside to this is you can’t use the same number you’ve always used, it has to be a different one on sign up.
I think the tradeoff is worth it to be able to send SMS and MMS over WiFi, and even take and receive calls. Some of the negatives from Text Free also carry over, making both apps a similar experience, but each with their own specific perks.
- Tons of customization options to make your app look unique
- Group messaging and media files compatible
- A real US phone number to use as long as you keep up with it
- In app purchases to get rid of ads
- You’ll lose your number if you don’t use it for a while
Whether or not you want to try Text Free or textPlus, both are free to use, all you need to do is download one, or both, and choose a number for each to get started.
Last up is the app Text Me, which is already going to start sounding similar to another app on this list. However, unlike Text Free, Text Me gives you a US number that plays nicely with other countries.
A feature I have to mention that wasn’t present with Text Free or textPlus is video calling. Instead of wrangling with Skype, or Google Hangouts, Text Me has the same video features straight from an actual phone number, and over WiFi.
Comparing Text Me to Text Free and textPlus in terms of customization, I still have to give it to textPlus, but Text Me still has more to offer than Text Free with extra frills and stickers to share. If you’re into expressive messages, then look no further.
- Plenty of customization options
- Offers a US/Canadian phone number that works with other countries
- Has video calling over WiFi
- Has ads placed throughout
- Restricted to US/Canadian numbers even though they work with international numbers
Text Me is by no means the first app like this I’ve talked about, but it might be the best for your WiFi texting needs if you decide to give it a shot.
While you can’t text over WiFi using just your phone number alone, there are apps that give you little workarounds. Most of the time this means you have to get your contacts on board with another app, or adopt another number, but being able to text whenever you have a WiFi connection makes the struggle worth it.
If you have a WiFi texting option you love to use that you don’t see up here, feel free to tell us about it down below!