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Send free text messages with TextPlus

Tired of racking up massive SMS bills every month? TextPlus lets you send and receive messages without spending a dime. Plus, it lets you text groups, not just individuals.

TextPlus not only sends text messages for free, it also supports group messaging.

Lots of apps let you sidestep iPhone SMS to send and receive text messages for free. But in most cases the apps themselves cost at least a few bucks. Enter TextPlus, a free, ad-supported app that offers unlimited texting.

That's reason enough to celebrate, but TextPlus has one other trick up its sleeve: group messaging. You can send a text to multiple recipients, and their replies will stay grouped together like in a chat room. (Obviously this works best if everyone uses TextPlus, but even nonusers can receive messages from the app.)

When you create a new message, TextPlus lets you choose one or more of your contacts or enter numbers manually. Turn your iPhone sideways and you get a landscape keyboard--always a welcome option.

Of course, the hassle with any third-party SMS app is that you don't get notifications of new messages unless the app is running. iPhone OS 3.0 promises to allow developers to remedy this problem, but for now the common workaround--and the one offered here--is getting new-message notifications via standard SMS.

Needless to say, that's not an ideal solution, as you still incur SMS charges for those notifications. But that's par for the course with SMS apps, and you're still able to save on outbound messages.

Until now, Textfree was my go-to app when my SMS count was nearing its monthly limit. But the freebie Lite version tops out at 20 messages per day, doesn't have a landscape keyboard, and doesn't do group messaging. Needless to say, TextPlus has replaced it.

Is there an SMS app you like better? Tell me why in the comments!