As an alternative to text messaging there is now a powerful tool called TextNow. The application, developed by Enflick, was designed to send and receive text messages without an SMS plan. Even though TextNow has numerous competitors it manages to pass many of them even those with the built-in Messages app for iPhone, iPodTouch and iPad.

So how does it work?

TextNow performs the task by converting the phone contact into an e-mail address. You use a username@textnow.me address within the app to send and receive text messages with your friends just like in iChat.

Looking at the app price tag, you may not believe the inexpensive rates. You start with a $1 price tag. Then Enflick grants you 90 days of unlimited texting with the opportunity to upgrade to a year of unlimited messaging for only $4 or – it sounds better – a lifetime subscription for only $8. You can gauge which subscription fits better for you, but it is considerably cheaper than any mobile carrier texting rates.

The user interface is quite neat. It looks good and offers the possibility to customize it. You can change the color scheme, set the background images, and tweak the alert sound. You can also access the address book, and then connect with Facebook to download your friends’ new images if you don’t have photos of them.

Although TextNow is a powerful competitor with the existing messaging applications, there are some lacks. Sometimes the messages don’t go through, although the app receives messages. You can choose to start with the TextNow Lite and try it for free. This has a limit of 30 outgoing messages per day, which will fit your needs if you don’t write too many messages.