VoIP apps - others to try besides Pinger (Text Free), Talkatone, and TextNow?

I’m trying to use a US number on my cell phone here in Japan. My requirements are basic, but can’t quite get it right with the apps I’ve tried.

I need:

  1. To be able to make and receive calls. This includes being able to do calls hands free (via speaker or using ear buds).

  2. Having a call/message history.

  3. ID verification from short numbers (like banks, credit cards).

  4. Being able to reply to short numbers (e.g. enter BAL with a credit card to check my balance).

These are the ones I’ve tried and the pros and cons.

Pinger/Text Free


With a subscription, ID verification from short numbers works with most places. I tested with some U.S. credit card companies, and with my IRS account.

Texts to short numbers also works.

Good call history.


Show stopper: It’s completely unusable for voice call on an iPhone hands-free. If you attempt to use it on speaker or with the included Apple earbuds both sides can’t hear each other, there are volume problems, and a conversation is completely impossible. If you hold the phone up to your ear if it’s tolerable, but being able to use make calls hands free is really vital.

They decided to abandon their iPad app, so if you want to use Pinger on your iPad it will only work in portrait mode. In other words, if you run it while it’s in a keyboard case in landscape mode the app is sideways.

Support is not very responsive. In fact I have never once gotten a reply to a support request sent via the app. I will eventually get replies if I send support request via Zendesk.



Voice quality is good, even hands-free using the speaker or earbuds.

With a subscription ID verification from short numbers works with most places.

They have a proper iPad app.

Good call history.


Texts to short numbers is not supported. You get a “bad message” error if you try. This is the only one of the VoIP apps which support ID verification and short numbers which does not allow sending text to short numbers. I’m not sure if that is a show-stopper or not, but would be nice to have.

Support is the least responsive of the apps I’ve tried. Often they never end up responding.


(Updated info about TextNow below. I think I’ll use this one for now.)

I assume simple roaming using a US SIM card is not an option here? When I travel overseas, I keep my US number. I just pay roaming charges when I use it. If I traveled often enough to be worthwhile, I could subscribe to an international calling plan that would lower the cost.

If I enable Wi-Fi calling, that greatly reduces the roaming charges. Calls placed over Wi-Fi, even from overseas, are billed as if they were placed from the US.

I’m afraid that is not really a practical option. When I visit the US I do use my Japanese SIM card, because my carrier here, Softbank, also owns Sprint. So I get unlimited use of data and talk while in the United States.

But the reverse sounds complicated very expensive and I would probably need another device.

VoIP is really designed for people in my situation I feel.

I just need to find in app that fills in all the gaps.

There exist mobile phones with dual SIM sockets for this purpose.

Apple has never made an iPhone with dual SIM sockets, but models released after 2018 (XS, XR, 11, 12 and SE-2020) have e-SIM support. If you can use the e-SIM for one mobile provider, you can put another provider’s SIM card in the socket and get the same behavior.

But, of course, this will involve having two mobile service provider accounts, which may cost more than you want to spend. VoIP is probably going to be your least-expensive option.

Yes, having two mobile service provider accounts would be way more expensive. Plus when overseas, as pointed out, there would be roaming charges, etc. VoIP is much easier and much much less expensive.

And it’s soooo close. Just a couple of minor issues. Like Talkatone not being able to send to a shortcode. Maybe that’s minor in the long run.



Have your looked into Magicjack? I replaced my landline with it and am very satisfied.
It uses VOIP underneath the covers. It offers an iPhone app which can take calls (from the landline number) remotely. Texts, too. (I am not familiar with shortcode; I do not use shortcode.)
My guess is that you are not required to make use of the landline number as a landline after you set it up.

Isn’t Magicjack a US thing? I live in Tokyo.


I did a quick search. magicJack can call international numbers, but it appears to support only US or Canadian phone numbers for the home number.
Vonage may be more international. Vonage has a monthly fee, so it is more expensive.
I checked another option: Facetime. It doesn’t seem too robust for text support. Until iOS 15, it seems to be iPhone/Mac only.
And then I thought of Skype. It is multi-platform and has text capability. I don’t use it for anything but video conferencing, but I would look into it. You can set it to show your phone number as the caller in a text from the quick help file I saw.
So maybe Skype??

I have had a Skype number for many years. The problems include:

  • It can receive text, but sending texts is not free.
  • They do not support short numbers or ID verification at all.

In fact, it was this lacking in Skype that cause me to start looking elsewhere.

I’ve updated my opinion about TextNow and will try using them for the time being.


Voice quality is good, even hands-free using the speaker or earbuds.

With a subscription, ID verification from short numbers works with most places. I tested with some U.S. credit card companies, and with my IRS account.

Texts to short numbers also works.

Most reachable/responsive support among the apps I tried including friendly live chat 7 days a week (10:30 am - 5 pm ET) and replies to tweet questions. They also do Facebook Messenger support that is very responsive, and a Facebook page where community posts are allowed. There is even a nice Reddit community for TextNow so you can talk with other members.

They have a proper iPad app. And even a Mac app.


With the free model, this app has way more ads than the other apps.

The ad free lite subscription isn’t working, so I’m still getting intrusive large ads. I went ahead and canceled that and will live with the ads for the time being.

They have a video chat feature, but it doesn’t work well in two different tests I’ve tried. Maybe not so important since there are so many other ways to do video chats with people these days.

The call history isn’t as long as it is for Pinger and Talkatone. Apparently just 30 days. With the other apps I see phone history going way back to last year at least.

Still, for just $4.99 a year for the “keep my phone number” subscription, it might be worth it. It works well with short-codes (both ways) and ID verification, and the sound quality is decent on speaker phone.

Here’s part of a Messenger chat I had with them today. :slight_smile:

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Of course in Japan, you might also try the free LINE app.

Yes, but LINE is just for people with the LINE app. The purpose here is to (1) have a US phone number, (2) send/receive calls and texts with anybody in the US, (3) including text message sent from short numbers for ID verification from banks and credit card companies in the US.

So it’s something completely different. I also use LINE with friends who have LINE.

For those three purposes, magicJack possibly will work; it is for US/Canadian phone numbers. (They will assign a number if you are not porting one.) I am happy to have it to be able to field calls to my US number while I am in Japan. However, I haven’t used it for texting when I am in Japan, so it might not do everything you want.
Good luck!

I think in my case TextFree will work out well after all. For MagicJack I do seem to need a US/Canadian actual cell phone to start with. But I live in Japan, so it’s sort of the reverse. I want a US number so non-iPhone people can easily call me and so I can do ID verification with my US banks and credit cards. But my main carrier is in Japan and my cell phone actual number is a Japanese number.

After some initial hurdles, TextNow seems to be working out fine. And their support is very responsive.



Thanks for updating your recommendation. Based on your previous post on this subject, I tried setting up a Text Free account early this year. However, I made the mistake of giving them my Japan address, which turned out to be a non-starter. Based on your experience, it sounds like TextNow is the better choice, so I’ll try registering for TextNow using my stateside address. Although I don’t know what “ID verification” and “Texts to short numbers” mean, I’m guessing they are capabilities that probably are worthwhile.

I don’t know what they mean by “ID verification”. If it’s only a feature of paid accounts, then they may be vouching that the caller ID info they sent out isn’t spoofed or something similar.

Short numbers are just what the name implies. A phone number that is shorter than the usual number of digits for your location (5-6 digits in the US). Businesses pay for these short numbers because they’re easier for customers to remember.

Short numbers are a feature of mobile networks and are not supported by land-line phone systems. Probably because land-lines don’t have a “send” key, so they have no way to inform the network that there won’t be any more digits.

There are also 3-digit short codes but as far as I know, they are never used commercially. They are reserved for government services and services run by the phone company (e.g. 911, 411, 611, etc.)

This is in addition to specialized numbers that may begin or end with the # and * characters. For the most part, these are carrier-specific services for performing administrative activities on your account (e.g. get your current billing balance, block caller ID, etc.)

See also:

I’ve never had address issues with TextFree (Pinger). They never even asked me my address as far as I recall. I wonder if we’re talking about the same place.

TextNow has various issues, but it’s nice that they have actual people you can reach through various means, including their own chat system, and FaceBook Messenger.

They also have apps for the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and browser access.

It’s working well so far. I’m just waiting to port in a cool custom number I purchased from numberbarn. I’m waiting to see if that will work.

ID verification is really important if you have things like US credit cards or an online IRS account. When you try to access or reach support for certain things they will send a code “to your mobile” and you have to then input the code to proceed. The codes come from short numbers.

That does seem to work well with TextNow.

Also, if you can live with the ads, you can get ID verification and short number support, plus unlimited US/Canada calls and texting just by preserving your selected phone number for $4.99/year.

For $9.99/month you get that, no ads, unlimited history (via a browser - via the Mac app apparently it only goes back 30 days), and voicemail transcriptions.


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