Last fall at TechCrunch Disrupt, Pinger, the company behind hugely popular texting application Textfree, announced that it was adding voice support to its application — a big deal, given that it adds voice calling to the iPod Touch and it allows iPhone users to make calls without burning their AT&T minutes.
The feature was in beta for around two and a half months (during which it was tested by thousands of people), and it went live for everyone on December 21. Today, Pinger is announcing just how well it’s done: between December 21 and December 30, users made 2.5 million voice calls. That’s a lot of talking.
On an average day, Textfree hands out somewhere on the order of 15,000 free phone numbers to its users (when you sign up for the service you get a new, unique phone number, which your friends can use to text and call you). Over this ten day holiday span, Textfree handed out some 900,000 phone numbers — 210,000 of which were distributed on Christmas day alone.
Some of this success can be attributed to the fact that Textfree made it to the number two spot overall on the App Store before it went into its ‘Christmas freeze’ from December 23 through 28, during which Apple ‘locks’ the app rankings in place. In other words, a lot of people who fired up their shiny new iPhones this Christmas saw Textfree as they first started browsing the App Store.
One other interesting stat: over this same time span, Pinger says that users bought or earned 20 million voice minutes. The ‘earn’ part is what’s novel here — Textfree lets you purchase cheap minutes just as you would on other VoIP apps like Skype. But it also lets you complete iPhone-specific ‘offers’ like those popularized on Facebook in order to earn these minutes. The most popular kind of offer simply requires users to download a promoted application from the App Store, which only takes a few seconds.
Pinger Chief of Product Joe Sipher says that rewarding users for downloading other applications has been “fantastic” and that the company has “made a ton of money” through it. He also says that many of the top 25 applications over the holidays were actually paying Pinger to appear as promoted applications in Textfree (these promotions are a good way to pad their download numbers).
Textfree has grown a lot since we last saw them at Disrupt. During the conference in September, Pinger announced that 4 billion messages had been sent using Textfree. That number is now up to 6 billion — the service has grown 50% in the last three months alone, when it took 1.5 years to get to the first 4 billion messages. Aside from the voice minutes detailed above, the app makes a lot of its revenue via ads — and it’s doing 60 million ad impressions a day. The app has been download over 10 million times overall.
One of the obvious competitors to Textfree is GOGII’s similarly named textPlus, which is adding 50,000 users a day. However, unlike Pinger’s Textfree, textPlus doesn’t have any voice functionality at all.