First the bad news – in some instances, for example if you do not have a smartphone, you won’t be able to do away with text messaging through free Internet text messaging solutions. These solutions are only for devices that have data plans with push capability – namely iPhone, Android or Blackberry. Also, if you frequently communicate with text messages with people that do not have a smartphone or are unwilling to try some new applications, it will be hard to convert them to the text-free lifestyle.
Now we have that disclaimer out of the way, let’s go over some solutions for getting rid of, or at least reducing, your text messages!
Kik is the “free real-time texting for all” service that supports iPhone, Android and Blackberry. The feel and style of Kik is the closest thing to texting that I’ve found on any of the apps I tested. It is missing MMS (photo and video texting) but with email and other technologies augmenting your experience this isn’t too much of a loss. Also of note is that Blackberry support is looking grim at the moment and they recently sued Kik for patent infringement. They say new groundbreaking technology is disruptive; and Blackberry has the most to lose from this platform since they provide the very profitable Blackberry Messenger (BBM).
After testing Kik daily for a few weeks with my wife, who also has an iPhone, I am really impressed by the experience. Messages are instantaneous and secure; a delivery and read receipt is also included. If you find that most of your text messages are sent and received from one user (such as a spouse) this will cut down on your text message numbers a lot.
I continue to be impressed by the Boxcar app. It is available only for iOS devices at the moment, however they are reportedly working on an Android version.
Boxcar is great at replacing all sorts of notifications – Google Voice, Twitter, Facebook and more. Many web services that have some kind of text message notification will work with Boxcar, and even if they don’t, Boxcar has an easy to use API which allows you to send any email messages right to your device. Bottom line – if an app supports email notification it will work with Boxcar.
Alternatives: Prowl (iOS) or (available for iOS, coming soon to Android and Blackberry). I couldn’t find a similar currently available Android app which has the same functionality, please let us know in the comments below if you know of any!
Google Voice is a perennial favorite around here for its voice services, its voice to text capabilities and of course its cost (free!) One of the other features that you don’t hear as much about is its free text messaging capability. Text messages are free both for sending and receiving but also you have a lot of options when it comes to notifications.
Since text messages can be sent to your email account, you can also set up a filter to forward those messages to an app of your choice. As a fall back, since text messages also go to your email, you will find them there as well. Since text messaging is more of an ‘instant’ communication and since personally I do not check my email all of the time, I use Boxcar to “push” them to my phone instantly. Google Voice’s native app also will push text messages to your device (iOS or Android).
Alternatives: Skype (low cost SMS, available outside the US)
Other IM applications such as BeeJive and Palringo are also alternatives to traditional text messaging. Since each one depends on the chat networks you use and whether the person you want to communicate with is actually on that network, this only works in my mind as a fallback to the other solutions above. It works, but sometimes there are issues where you will be logged out without notice and will stop receiving messages and also delay problems. These are not a true solution to text messaging so really I would recommend them as a last resort.
The terminology of the technology we are using to replace text messaging is called “Push”. In general, this lets a remote device receive instantaneous notification of an event; whether that be a call, text message or other piece of data. The solutions above work extremely well to replace text messages but each has their own pitfalls. The “best” option in my mind is Kik, however you need to convince others to use it as well so it does not have widespread adoption. Going with Google Voice and some other push notification has the broadest appeal since even people who do not use it can send you text messages. A blend of uses yields the best result as far as backward compatibility with other text messaging users.
Do you have a secret method for replacing text messaging on your phone? Please let us know in the comments below!
Image credit: Sebastian Dario