Yesterday, TextNow launched their new prepaid MVNO, Touch Mobile, designed to expand the company's services in the prepaid sector. A MVNO, or mobile virtual network operator, is a business that rebrands and resells a mobile network services, in this case Touch Mobile are using Sprint as their carrier of choice. Touch Mobile will make extensive use of WiFi and voice-over-Internet technologies using the Sprint network and joins Republic Wireless and Scratch Wireless. Both T-Mobile USA and Sprint also offer their own WiFi calling plans, too.
If you're unfamiliar with TextNow, this is a cloud based text messaging service that was started in 2009 as something of a competitor to WhatsApp. The service allows users to send and receive unlimited text messages within the United States of America and Canada via a dedicated TextNow number, which may be accessed via 'phones, tablets or an Internet browser in order to synchronise messages. TextNow was launched as an application for devices but last year started offering handsets in conjunction with their partner network operator, Sprint. Touch Mobile also uses Sprint as the host network and offers similar prices and services to TextNow. It offers service via just three handsets; the refurbished WiMax Samsung Galaxy S II, the refurbished LTE Samsung Galaxy S III and the (new or refurbished) LTE Samsung Galaxy Victory. Prices of these handsets will be determined by the particular reseller but we expect these to be between $100 to $250, on sale now via Frys Electronics and independent wireless retailers.
The Touch Mobile service uses the Samsung's native dialer but only routes calls over a cellular (Sprint's 2G 1x) network as a last resort. First, the device will attempt to use a WiFi connection, then Sprint's LTE network as an IP-based call (that is, your voice is sent over the Internet). If the handset cannot connect to the Sprint LTE network it will use the 3G EV-DO network and will only send the call over Sprint's 2G network if EV-DO is unavailable. The handset will determine the best network to place a call and can hand off a call initiated via WiFi to a mobile network if necessary. Ultimately, the service is structured to encourage calling over WiFi network and any service over WiFi is completely free of charge. For charges, Touch Mobile's cheapest plan is $20, which gives users 200 MB of cellular data. This is enough for 200,000 text messages or eleven hours of calling. $25 gives you 500 MB and $35 gives 1 GB of data. The most expensive plan is $50, which gives users 2 GB of data or two million text messages and over 113 hours of talk time. Customers are not cut off if they exceed their data allowance but are instead given four days grace for WiFi use, although there are plans to throttle customers' data speeds rather than removing their service. All plans include free visual voicemail and the ability to text from an Android tablet or computer browser. The company has said that the company will soon offer calling from computers using the Touch Mobile number.
The ability to use WiFi networks to save money is nothing new to the North American market, which has led the world in this respect. If you live in an area with respectable Sprint coverage, would you consider moving to a contract-less prepaid provider such as Touch Mobile? Hit us up in the comments below.