Sprint MVNO TextNow launches LTE smartphone as part of expanded phone service

Sprint (NYSE:S) MVNO TextNow, which offers its main IP-based messaging service over Wi-Fi and roams onto Sprint's network when outside Wi-Fi coverage, is launching an LTE smartphone as part of its expanded phone service offering. TextNow said it will now offer Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S III for $200.

textnow mvno galaxy s III $200

TextNow will sell the LTE-capable Galaxy S III for $200.

TextNow, a no-contract service from Waterloo, Ont.-based startup Enflick, started as an over-the-top messaging service, similar to WhatsApp, and lets users send and receive unlimited text messages within the United States and Canada free of charge. The company offers customers a dedicated TextNow phone number, and because the service is cloud-based, users can use that number on their phones, tablets or the web to sync messages.

TextNow, which launched as an app in 2009, claims to have more than 20 million users worldwide and serve 2 billion impressions per month across its Android, iOS and Windows Phone apps.

TextNow expanded into the MVNO business during the summer by offering handsets and partnering with Sprint. Like fellow Sprint MVNO Republic Wireless, TextNow's service uses Sprint's network in areas where customers can't access Wi-Fi. TextNow launched the Samsung-built Nexus S for $90 and Galaxy S II for $120 earlier this summer; today the company is expanding into the LTE market with the Galaxy S III.

Enflick CEO Derek Ting said in an interview with FierceWireless that the company is constantly evaluating new devices, but has no plans to offer smartphones from platforms other than Android. He said because the service is cloud-based, TextNow has a great deal of flexibility in the devices it can offer. "The service is very decoupled from the device," he said.

TextNow's cheapest plan runs $18.99 per month for 500 MB of data, unlimited texting and incoming calls, as well as 750 roll-over minutes of outgoing calls. For $26.99 customers get 1 GB of data, unlimited texting and incoming calls, as well as 1,250 roll-over minutes of outgoing calls. For $39.99 per month customers get 2 GB of data, unlimited texting and incoming calls, as well as 2,000 roll-over minutes of outgoing calls.

TextNow also offers a mobile hotspot product for $40 that is also powered by Sprint's CDMA and WiMAX networks.

TextNow's new LTE phone offering comes shortly after fellow Sprint MVNO FreedomPop  expanded its offerings to include a smartphone and voice calling and texting services. Previously the company centered its strategy on selling wireless data through hotspots and other data-only devices.

FreedomPop will sell refurbished HTC Evo Design WiMAX smartphones for $99 without a contract. Evo buyers will be able to access the company's signature 500 MB of free data per month, but will also get 500 text messages and 200 anytime voice minutes free every month for life. Users can pay $10.99 per month to upgrade to unlimited calls and texts.

Ting said he is skeptical of FreedomPop's model, but admitted he needed to explore its business model more. "They try to bait you with something that's free and then monetize you as you get further on in the service," he said of FreedomPop. Consumers appreciate transparency, he said. Ting also said his company is "confident the pricing we provide is competitive" but that it "allows us to make enough money so we can provide good quality care."

For more:
- see this TextNow site
- see this release

Related Articles:
FreedomPop intros $99 smartphone, $11/month unlimited talking, texting plan
Sprint, T-Mobile execs explain the MVNO explosion
FreedomPop crosses 100K subs, adds support for Sprint's LTE network
FreedomPop goes OTT: gives away unlimited texting, 200 voice minutes per month

Correction, Oct. 3, 2013: This article incorrectly stated the number of impressions TextNow's app serves per month. It serve 2 billion impressions per month, not 2 million.