Using iPod as free cell phone?
June 4, 2016 2:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm in my late 30s and I've never owned a cell phone or text messaged in my life. I was gifted an iPod Touch for Christmas and (if possible) would like to know how to use this device to do these things. I'm poor, so free methods are best, although the drawbacks of the free methods would be good to know. And, ok, maybe there aren't free methods.

(I did try to use the factory 'messages' app to write to my friend's cell number, but the 'send' button was ghosted. So I don't know how to do this stuff.)
posted by fucker to Technology (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
There are web pages explaining how to use Skype to turn your iPod into a phone.
posted by zadcat at 2:17 PM on June 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

There's an app for that. iPods can receive Wifi, and there is an app that lets your iPod make free Wifi calls as long as it has access to Wifi -
posted by CollectiveMind at 2:24 PM on June 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you want to text message, I highly recommend getting a Google Voice number. Then install the Google Hangouts app on your iPod Touch and you can text wherever there is wifi. People can also leave you voicemails on your Google Voice number and you can listen to or read them on your iPod Touch.

Bonus: If you have a computer, you can access the voicemails and text messages on your computer, and even use a real keyboard to send texts.
posted by ethidda at 2:32 PM on June 4, 2016 [6 favorites]

The iPod Touch doesn't have cellular service, just WiFi. I would second ethidda's advice to get a Google Voice number and then install the Google Hangouts app.

Here's a brief overview of what's free and what costs money on Google Voice. If you're using WiFi, you don't need to worry about your mobile plan. Calls to most US and Canadian numbers are now free. Even international calls are dirt cheap. Most text messages appear to be free. Of course, Google will be advertising stuff to you, which is how they pay for all this "free" stuff.
posted by brianogilvie at 2:53 PM on June 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

The iPod can send text messages to users in the Apple ecosystem.
The iPod can use FaceTime to do video chat with the same users.
Both of these require a WiFi connection.
posted by yclipse at 3:32 PM on June 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Nthing Google Voice. I've avoided a monthly cellular bill for years, by using hand-me-down iPod Touches and iPhones-with-no-SIM, along with a GV number. Not perfect for everything, but really good for free*.

*yeah i know
posted by easement1 at 4:15 PM on June 4, 2016

(I thought google voice required another phone number to be associated with it?)
posted by aniola at 6:16 PM on June 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

@aniola -- It was required for initial setup. I used my wife's number to get a verification code, IIRC. If there's any drawback to having done so, I haven't discovered it yet. ;)
posted by easement1 at 6:53 AM on June 5, 2016

I don't know if it works the same on iOS devices, but you can even make VoIP calls with Google Voice on Android these days. I have a bad habit of forgetting to pay my cell phone bill, so it has saved my bacon on a few occasions. Works just the same as having phone service in terms of text messaging and calling, just with a different number.

On Android, you have to install the "Hangouts Dialer" app to make calls, but the regular Hangouts app is all you need for messaging and incoming calls.

Signal is another option for calling and messaging people who use that ecosystem, which is nice because it uses strong encryption.

There are also SIP providers that charge 1c a minute or so that you can use with Bria or other VoIP app. If you don't use it much and want to stay away from Google as some do, that might be a reasonable option.

All of these things will be better if you have a friend with a Comcast or at&t account so you can use their WiFi hotspots when out and about. It can be almost as good as real cell service in places where they have a lot of customers.
posted by wierdo at 8:09 AM on June 5, 2016

Many people use Skype for videoconferencing, but you can also use voice to dial any number (any brand cell, landline) as well as text messaging (and you can set your number to appear as sender in recipients' caller ID). Software is free from Microsoft. Rates are super cheap: half-hour phone call = $0.11. I splurged to PayPal ten bucks in my account, will need to do again in Fall, maybe.
posted by Jesse the K at 9:44 AM on June 5, 2016

Do you explicitly want to send SMSs to people? Or do you just want to type things at them?

There are lots of commonly used alternatives to texting nowadays, too. Personally I do all the communication I'd do via texts with Telegram and Teitter DMs. Used to use Google Hangouts a lot until my circles shifted off of it. WhatsApp, Facebook messenger... There's a lot of ways people communicate via text on their phones nowadays. And the system-provided text messages app may be hidden in a forgotten corner.

See what the people you want to talk to use. Install that app.
posted by egypturnash at 10:02 AM on June 5, 2016

If you want to really use it as a cellphone and have access to wifi everywhere, look into FreedomPop, from which you can get a free 3G/4G hotspot. The data available each month is pretty limited, but it's free. It's also got a number of cheap upgrades.

They may offer phone service as well.

I used their hotspot a few years ago and it was useful in a pinch.

I'm a relatively heavy data user though.
posted by reddot at 8:53 AM on June 8, 2016

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