Developer: Enflick
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 3.3.3

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Reliability Rating: ★★½☆☆
Re-use Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

IMG_0660Texting is great. Paying for it, however, isn’t—cell phone companies charge a ridiculous markup for such tiny messages, and let’s face it, nobody wants to pay extra money for something so basic…which explains the proliferation of texting apps on the App Store. TextNow is one such app. It gives you your own unique ID and allows you to send and receive texts to and from normal phones by using either your data plan or a WiFi connection. It sounds like a great idea, but be warned: it’s also an unreliable one.

The premise of the app is simple, and using it is similarly so. When you start a new conversation, you can either select a number from your Contacts list or manually type one in. Texts appear in a chat-bubble style string, and any replies sent to your original text will appear in the same window. Landscape mode is fully supported, which is a godsend. Beyond the basic functionality of texting, TextNow also provides some nice options. You can change the appearance of the app, including the background; change ringtones for specific conversations; and add email forwarding, among other things. Push notifications are included. One curious (and disappointing) omission is group texting.

But while it’s nice to be able to tweak silly things like backgrounds, any texting app needs one thing: reliability. Once you actually subject the app to heavy use, its flaws quickly become apparent. The second text I sent took a whopping six hours to arrive; other friends have missed TextNow texts entirely. For other numbers, TextNow messages appear instantly, and it’s a great way to relieve stress on my texting plan. But it’s a little too spotty—if I had to guess, I’d say that about a third of my texts were either received late or not at all.

TextNow is a great idea, for both WiFi-bound iPod Touch users and iPhone users looking to save a bit of money, and when it works it’s excellent. But without reliability, I can’t recommend it. Besides, you’re still paying for this service: the paid app only gets you 3 months of service, after which you’ll need to pay either $3.99 per year or $7.99 for a lifetime. That’s much cheaper than a real texting plan, granted. But why pay for something that doesn’t always work? I recommend passing on this one.

(For reference: I’m on a second-generation iPod Touch with the latest firmware update. Let us know in the comments if you’ve had other experiences with this app!)

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