There’s good news for those who own iPhones and travel internationally. The new iPhones with iOS5 or iOS6 now allow unlimited texts for free over wi-fi using the built in iMessage app. It is also available on new iPads and iPod Touch models.
Since free wi-fi is readily available in most countries at restaurants, cafes and libraries to name only a few locations, iMessaging is accessible at almost any time without using your data plan or your minutes.
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Using iMessage for Free International Texts
Step one: Turn off your data when using your iPhone overseas to be sure you don’t get billed for any unwanted charges.
Step two: make sure the party you are texting also has iMessage, and that it is turned on (it is normally on by default but can be toggled on/off in message settings, so ensure they have not disabled it.)
Step three: get a wi-fi connection (in many places you can simply find a spot outside a location with free wi-fi and connect without even needing a password or buying anything.) There is no need to “activate” iMessage with each text, as your iPhones will recognize the app instantly and the text will show up in blue text bubbles.
Other Apps for Free International Texting
There are additional apps that also allow for free or inexpensive texting even if both parties do not have a newer iPhone. As long as each party has a smart-phone, these apps can be used.
WhatsApp Messenger is just 99 cents to download, and allows free texting over wi-fi in a large number of countries. Both parties don’t need an iPhone - they just each need the app and access to wi-fi. (WhatsApp can also be used domestically but will use your data plan.)
Skype also allows for calling for free or very cheap depending on the type of call. You can make regular calls back home when needed, or call people in different countries for fairly low rates. If you plan to use Skype abroad, add money to your account before you leave to avoid having to deal with currency changes.
Google Voice is another app that can be used to place texts and call directly from the app on a smart-phone. It’s also free over wi-fi, and you can create your own custom number to use.
Rebtel has apps for iPhone, Android and other smartphones as well as for PCs. This app allows calling and texting for free or very cheaply in dozens of countries, especially if the recipient of the call also has Rebtel.
The main thing to remember when calling and texting abroad is that, as a rule, wi-fi can lead to free or almost free calls and texts - while keeping your data access turned on can run up a huge bill. Stick with wi-fi and your international texts can remain free with iMessaging and various other apps!