Like many over-the-top communications apps, TextPlus has long been a supplemental messaging and voice tool on its customers’ mobile phones. But over its six-year history, TextPlus (formerly known as Gogii) has seen its customers turn its app into their primary phone, running it over iPod Touches, tablets and plenty of phones that have been disconnected from a carrier network. They’ve essentially turned Wi-Fi into their mobile network.
TextPlus is now taking advantage of that trend by launching a newly revamped Android and iOS app called NextPlus. The update adds new features now common on other messaging apps. Most significantly, the app is redesigned around the virtual phone number, letting textPlus users more easily send SMS and MMS messages and call users outside of TextPlus’s 70 million–user network (the texting features are available now, while calling will come online in the next few weeks).
According to Austin Murray, co-founder and president, NextPlus is basically the app many of the company’s users wanted when they first downloaded its software — a mobile phone with no mobile carrier. Calls and texts to any U.S. or Canadian number are free, while TextPlus charges discount rates for international calls and messages.
TextPlus on Wednesday also announced a deal with U.K. mobile carrier Three to use its phone numbers for its virtual phone network. That means NextPlus now will be able to assign local numbers in three countries: the U.S., Canada and the U.K. TextPlus has other deals in the works with international carriers, and as those deals stack up, TextPlus could wind up offering something like an international roaming service, Murray said.
Imagine stepping off the plane at Heathrow Airport, connecting to an airport hotspot, and firing up your NextPlus app, which would then assign you a +44 U.K. number on the fly. Without buying a SIM card or signing up for a prepaid plan, you could be making and receiving local calls in minutes. Technically you could do that today if you were signing up for NextPlus for the first time overseas, Murray said, but the company doesn’t yet offer multiple international numbers to a single account. That could easily change in the future, he added.