We’ve been hearing quite a bit lately about the rise of unlimited texting applications on the iPhone. Pinger’s Textfree, which was a runner-up for the top prize at TechCrunch Disrupt, has posted some staggering stats lately, with over 4 billion text messages sent since March 2009. There’s also GOGII’s textPlus, which has gotten similarly impressive adoption. Now Line2, an iPhone app that lets you make calls from both Wifi and your carrier network using the same number, wants a piece of the action: it enabled text messaging four days ago, and users have already sent 1 million texts messages using the app.
Granted, those 1 million texts are a few orders of magnitude smaller than the aforementioned stats, but Line2 CEO Peter Sisson claims this is the first iPhone app that can handle both full SMS support and VoIP calling (Pinger just announced that this is coming, but it isn’t out yet). Sisson also says that “VoIP is hard”, explaining that Line2 has been doing VoIP for years now and is tacking on SMS, instead of the other way around — in other words, he’s suggesting that Pinger will have its work cut out for it once it does roll out the VoIP feature. But there’s one big catch: unlike Pinger’s Textfree, Line2 isn’t free — it comes with a $9.99 a month pricetag.
That may well turn off the teens and young adults that have been Pinger’s bread-and-butter, but Line2 includes some attractive features that its free competitors don’t. For one, it includes much of the functionality (and then then some) that Google Voice offers like caller announcement, conference calling, and the ability to juggle between 3G and Wifi networks. And Pinger isn’t going to be totally free either — you’ll be allotted a certain number of free minutes, but you’ll have to participate in various offer programs to earn more if you don’t want to fork over any cash.
In other words, Line2 probably isn’t going to pull away many users from Textfree, but this texting functionality makes it a much more tempting proposition for users who need a more robust phone system and are looking to trim down their phone bills.