The 411: Free text messages

Every two weeks, CNET editor Nicole Lee answers your questions about cell phones and cell phone accessories in The 411.

Welcome to the 411, my Q&A column answering all your questions about cell phones and cell phone accessories. At times, I might solicit answers from readers if I'm stumped. Send your questions and comments to me at If you prefer to remain anonymous, let me know in the e-mail.

I'm trying to reduce my monthly cell phone bill, and I've heard that there's a way to send text messages for free. Have you heard about this, and could you tell me how to do so? Brad, via e-mail.

Yes, there are indeed a few ways you can send and receive text messages for free. It's a little more complicated of course, but it's possible. One way is to send an e-mail instead of a text message--most cell phone numbers are associated with an e-mail address, and if you send an e-mail to that address, the person will receive it as a text message. Different providers have different e-mail address formats; AT&T customers have, and Verizon customers have You can check the e-mail address format for your phone carrier here. You will of course need a data plan for sending e-mail, but it won't be billed as a text message.

Another way to do it is via instant messaging. You can do this using Google chat or AOL Instant Messenger. Just enter in your recipient's phone number in the To field and he or she will receive a text message from your IM handle. Finally, you can use a variety of online services to send and receive your text messages. If you have a Google Voice number, for example, you can use the Google Voice service to send and receive text messages for free. You do need to use the Web interface, which can be a little slow, and if you opt to have those messages sent to your phone, you'll still have to pay for them. Other online services that let you send and receive free text messages include Textfree and Textplus, both of which have apps for the iPhone. You can choose other online services as well, but most of them do require you to access a Web interface of some kind, so bear that in mind.

When is the Nexus One for Verizon coming?? I've been waiting forever! Melissa, via e-mail.

A few days ago, I would say that it would be any day now. Today, however, I would say that the answer is that it's most certainly not. Both Verizon and Google have announced that instead of offering the Nexus One to Verizon customers, Google is recommending the HTC Droid Incredible instead. But don't fret; this could be a good thing. Our own Bonnie Cha has professed her preference for the Droid Incredible and has said that HTC's Sense UI does great things to the Android platform and that the Incredible in general is a better smartphone in specs alone. Still, this does mean it's locked to Verizon so it's up to you on whether you would want a locked or unlocked phone, and whether you prefer the HTC UI over Google's own interface.

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