Wouldn’t you like to shave $5-$20 off on your monthly cell phone bill? By eliminating our monthly SMS messaging plan, the money you’ll be able to save is tremendous when you look at it in the long run. If you are on the unlimited messaging plan, that equals to about $240 a year at $20 a month and double that over the course of your two year contract. That’s huge! You’re spending an average of $480 over the course of your contract just to be able to text! Have family members? Well, just do the math yourself and I’m sure you’ll figure where I’m going with this. Don’t forget the amount of money spent on your data plan as well. However, wouldn’t you agree that if you’ve already spent so much money for a monthly data plan, shouldn’t you be able to use that same data connection to send/receive your text messages as well?! Why pay double? Well, I’m here to tell you that you absolutely can use your data connection as the carrier for your text messages. The method I use here is just one of the many that users out there are using to eliminate their cell phone provider’s SMS messaging plan. Here’s your chance to take a stand and let your carrier provider know that you’ve just about had enough! Who’s with me?!?!
- Jailbroken iPhone. It is absolutely not illegal to jailbreak your iPhone. The DMCA (a.k.a. the government) declared that jailbreaking your iPhone is not considered illegal. It is however, illegal to jailbreak your phone to download and install cracked/pirated apps. However, there are tons of legitimate reasons why someone should consider a jailbreak. If you still do not want to take the risk, you can still go on with this article, although you won’t achieve the end result of being able to text natively with your SMS app using Google Voice. If that’s the case, you’ll want to read the notification box below and check out Pinger’s TextFree app instead.
- Google Voice number and app. The main method I’m using to send and receive free text messages is through the Google Voice service.
- BiteSMS app (optional but highly recommended). There’s a lot to be desired from the iPhone’s native SMS app. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to send and reply text messages no matter what you are doing on the phone at the moment?! BiteSMS helps you achieve this and once you use it, I promise you will never, ever return back to the default messaging app. Yes, this app alone is one reason why many users perform a jailbreak.
- GV Extension plugin. This crafty extension/plugin allows you to send and receive texts from your Google Voice number directly within your iPhone’s native messaging app rather than inside the Google Voice app.
Google Voice SetupGoogle Voice, along with all the other free texting applications out there, indeed help save you money. They all work the same in that they give you your own personal phone number and texting and receiving text messages can be done while only in their app. In some other scenarios, you are not able to text other people unless they themselves are using the app as well on their phone. This works well for some but I simply hate it and that is why I shy away from those. The method I explain here allows you to use BiteSMS, which integrates with your native iPhone messaging app, to be able to send and receive Google Voice text messages just like how you did before. No need to open a special app, wait for it to load, blah blah blah. But, this only works if you have a jailbroken iPhone. If not, you’ll have to stick with the other free SMS texting apps, which still accomplishes the feat of cutting down your phone bill. Two popular apps are WhatsApp Messenger and Pinger’s TextFree. I personally recommend the latter. Before continuing, it’s important you understand that Google Voice’s free texting feature do not include MMS (multimedia messaging service). Therefore, you are not allowed to send or receive texts that includes any photo, music or video attachments. This is very limiting but only if you actually use MMS. If not, you’ll have nothing to worry about. It’s not clear right now whether Google will support this feature in the future so I can’t say anything about it.
The first thing you want to do is apply for your very own Google Voice phone number. This is 100% free (although switching to a different number in the future will cost you). Getting your own phone number from Google Voice is like having a second phone line to your cell phone. This new number you receive from Google is the number you want to pass out to all your friends, family members and colleagues from now on. Once you’ve linked the number to your iPhone, you can then receive regular calls and text messages through that number. If you are lucky, Google will have a phone number with your area code of choice. If not, you can definitely opt for a different one (although it can be strange when you hand them out to your local buddies). Your friends do not have to call you via your Google Voice number. You can simply instruct them to use that number for sending texts only.
Once you’ve gotten your number, head into your Google Voice account settings. Navigate to the Phones tab and click on the Edit button for the phone number corresponding to your iPhone.
Once inside the edit screen, simply deselect the option to “Receive text messages on this phone”. This might sound counter-intuitive at first but if you enable this option and turn on Notifications for the Google Voice app, you’ll receive not only a notification when a SMS arrives for the app but one for your native SMS app as well. You do not want this to happen, unless of course you have a reason to.
So once all this is done, it’s time to download the Google Voice iPhone app from iTunes. The app is completely free and once you’ve signed in with your account information, you’re pretty much good to go. At this moment, you can only send and receive text messages within the Google Voice app only! Don’t forget this! Your friends must use your Google Voice number if you do not want to incur a charge and when you text, you must do so within the app. If you do not want to jailbreak your phone, this is as far as you can go. Why is this bad? Well, I’m going to be frank here. The Google Voice app is amazingly horrible to use as a SMS texting application. Because you’re iPhone is not jailbroken, you cannot download and use BiteSMS nor the GV Extension. The next thing you want to make sure is enabled is notifications for the Google Voice app. This allows the app to notify you whenever you receive a new text message.
Google Voice works by using either a wi-fi or 3G/Edge connection to deliver your text messages. You can easily perform a simple test if you really don’t believe it. Either turn on Airplane Mode or remove your phone’s SIM card. Either would disable texting via your phone’s carrier connection. Next, connect to a wi-fi connection. Try sending a text via Google Voice’s app. It will be successful. Ask another person to send you a text via your Google Voice number and that will be successful as well.
BiteSMSYou can find more information about BiteSMS here on their website. BiteSMS is available only through the Cydia store.
GV ExtensionFind more information about GV Extension here. The price is $2.99 but for that price, you’ll have a lot easier time texting through BiteSMS with your Google Voice number. Trust me on this one. In fact, if you don’t use GV Extension, you might as well use another free texting service such as Pinger’s TextFree because MMS is available on that one. You’ll still need to open the app before being able to send a text so why not go with the one with more features? GV Extension is only available through the Cydia store.
Alright, so you’ve gotten Google Voice setup, you’ve installed the Google Voice iPhone app and BiteSMS. We’re almost home. As of right now, whether you are using BiteSMS or the iPhone’s native SMS application, it is still not integrated with your Google Voice number! Remember what I’ve said earlier. In order to receive free text messages, your friends must use your Google Voice number. In order to send free text messages, you must do so within the Google Voice app or else the text messages will count against your messaging plan. With GV Extension, we’re able to easily integrate our Google Voice number into our default text messaging application. It doesn’t matter if it’s BiteSMS or the default app. By doing so, you’re able to read text messages sent by your friends in your native SMS app (again, Google Voice is horrible to use). You’re also able to send text messages without having to first go into the Google Voice app! This allows for a truly seamless texting experience.
GV Extension, once downloaded and installed, can only be configured within the iPhone’s Settings menu. There is no specific app icon dedicated to GV Extension. You basically enter in your Google Voice account details and you’re set. A very useful setting is appending a signature to texts you receive from Google Voice. This lets you know when someone is not using your Google Voice number (as it wouldn’t have the signature). Once you have GV Extension working, you’re now able to send and receive all the text messages you want without incurring any charges!
Important Notes to Consider…
- Your New Number. If you are truly considering switching to Google Voice for free texting, you’ll need to do your job of communicating your new number to all your friends and colleagues. Remember, your friends are likely to use your old phone number to send you text messages. That’s not going to cut it. Sending a mass email or text message to all your friends (using Google Voice of course) detailing your new Google Voice number can get the job done quickly and efficiently. Also, your friends can use that same Google Voice number to call you as well if you so wish to.
- Cancellation. By truly cancelling your messaging plan, you are going to incur a per message charge if someone sends you a text via your old number. However, this can easily be remedied by texting your friend back with your Google Voice number and reminding him/her to use that from now on. You’ll incur a $.20 charge but I’m sure that’s preferable to $20.
- Out of Service. There might be a day where Google will cut support of free texting within Google Voice. That’s going to be a sad day for sure but nothing we can do about it. If that happens, you’ll have to switch to another free texting service or reactivate your messaging plan. Now, I’m not saying Google will cancel free texting with Google Voice. I’m just reminding you that it’s definitely a possibility.
- Notifications. You’ll want to enable notifications for the Google Voice app. For some weird reason (maybe caused by a glitch or bug), Google App will not notify you of new arriving text messages. You’ll still receive them but you won’t know until you head directly into either the Google Voice app or BiteSMS. I believe this happens when you haven’t opened the Google Voice app for a while. You have no reason to open the app because you’re now using either BiteSMS or the default SMS app (assuming you’ve installed GV Extension) to manage your text messages. To solve this problem, simply open the Google Voice app at least once every 3 days or so on your iPhone.