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TextNow introduces an unlimited-LTE plan for $39.99

That's one of the cheapest single-line options out there for GSM and unlocked Sprint phones. Plus: noise-canceling headphones for $35, and your shot at winning an unlocked iPhone X!

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
4 min read

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The never-ending search for cheap phone service


Sprint's one-year-free deal. Mint Mobile's pay-in-advance plans. Freedompop's new Unreal service. When it comes to finding cheap phone service, you've got lots of options.

Here's one more: TextNow's new unlimited-LTE plan costs $39.99 per month, making it one of the most inexpensive single-line unlimited options out there. (TextNow also has family plans, after a fashion: each additional line costs $29.99.)

All you need is an unlocked Sprint or GSM phone and TextNow's free SIM card. If it's a Sprint model, you'll be on Sprint's network; if it's GSM, you'll be on a "third-party" carrier. (TextNow isn't allowed to specify, but according to Wikipedia and other sources, it's T-Mobile .)

The plan itself is typical "unlimited": calls, texts and high-speed data, though with the usual caveat that if you burn through more than 23GB in a month, your speed may be reduced.

Watch this: 3 cheap alternatives to the Big Four carriers

How much LTE do you really need? Only you can answer that, but I've seen reports indicating that the vast majority of users consume less than 5GB of mobile data each month. And for what it's worth, TextNow's 5GB plan runs $29.99 per month.

One important note: Like Republic Wireless, TextNow leverages Wi-Fi (when available) for calls and text messages. The only real advantage to that nowadays is that if you live and/or work somewhere that has poor cell coverage, but does have Wi-Fi, you'll likely enjoy much better connectivity.

Also, mobile hotspot is not included with this plan, but is coming this summer, according to a TextNow spokesperson.

Outside of occasional brief tests, I haven't used TextNow as my carrier. If you have, hit the comments and share your experiences. I think $40 per month for unlimited service is a deal worth investigating, but I also think there are lots of other options in the same price range. Your thoughts?

Bonus deal: I've shared a lot of headphone deals around these parts, but very few with this desirable feature: active noise-canceling. That's special circuitry that blocks out ambient noise, great for listening in planes, trains, buses and other noisy environments.


Normally, that tech adds a pretty penny to 'phone prices, but not today: For a limited time, and while supplies last, BEIYIusHOME (via Amazon) has the Elepawl Noise Cancelling Wireless Over-Ear Headphones for $34.99 when you apply promo code P7XGOD2N. Regular price: $70!

These are surprisingly lightweight over-the-ear phones that can be used via Bluetooth or removable 3.5mm cord (included). The earcups and headband are cushy and comfortable, and I liked the large play/pause and volume buttons on the right earcup.

As for sound quality, well, that's a subjective thing. In my tests, some songs sounded great, others seemed a bit muddy. Some sounded better with noise-canceling activated, some sounded better with it off. Of course, if you're looking at any headphones priced under, say, $100, you're probably not a serious audiophile -- in which case a $35 pair with active noise-canceling is definitely worth considering. 

Giveaway! Over at TechRepublic, you've got a darn good chance to win an unlocked iPhone X -- and a TechRepublic swag-bag to boot.

To enter, all you have to do is answer one simple question (there, not here -- though I guess you're welcome to answer it here as well. It just won't count as a contest entry): "What apps are on your must-download list when setting up a new smartphone?"

In case you're wondering, mine are Dashlane, Facebook, Kindle and Overcast.

CNET's Cheapskate scours the web for great deals on PCs, phones , gadgets and much more. Note that CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page. Find more great buys on the CNET Deals page and follow the Cheapskate on Facebook and Twitter!