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In America, the biggest telecommunications companies are essentially indistinguishable. If you’re on the prowl for a truly affordable cell phone plan, it’s time to start looking to our neighbors to the north.
As far as mobile service providers go, TextNow is about as small as you can get. The Canadian based carrier hasn’t been able to cultivate a big enough customer base—or partnering service provider—in its home country, so it’s now reaching for Americans who would like to slice their phone bills by significant margins. That’s pretty much everyone, since Americans on the whole pay more for their data plans than most.
Plans with the upstart TextNow start at $18.99 per month. Texting and calling is free, and data comes in either 500MB, 1GB, 2GB, or 4GB varieties.
TextNow piggybacks off the Sprint network while utilizing T-Mobile’s model of capping the high-speed data while continuing to allow unlimited use at slower speeds. In the case of TextNow, users can continue browsing and streaming at 2G speeds—an unpleasantly slow but functional rate.
The plans at TextNow are monthly, with no long-term contract. As is generally the case with this system, which has gained popularity in recent years among American carriers, this means customers will have to bring their own devices. TextNow does offer some refurbished devices on its own at a discount should you prefer to save a couple bucks, but any device enabled for the Sprint network works with the service.
The plan for TextNow remains to eventually disrupt the Canadian market, which suffers from even less competition and pricer rates than is found in the U.S., according to a report from the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission.
Until the company can make inroads with its country of origin, it’ll continue to spread its services, which comes with an average bill of $23 per month for its users, elsewhere. Canadian carriers want nothing to do with TextNow for now, and American consumers may be all the better for it.
AJ Dellinger is a seasoned technology writer whose work has appeared in Digital Trends, International Business Times, and Newsweek. In 2018, he joined Gizmodo as the nights and weekend editor.