With so many people ditching their landline phones in favor of their smartphone, the minutes can rack up fast, costing you a hefty bill at the end of the billing cycle. Talkatone aims to alleviate sticker shock by offering unlimited free calls and texts without taking up any of your minutes. The app worked as promised for phone calls, but the calls weren't exactly crystal clear, and the recipient may not know who is calling based on the caller ID info provided. Text messages are another story.
Once Talkatone is installed, it will ask for access to your contacts. Also, Talkatone uses Google Voice to make the calls, so you have to be logged into your Google Account. (We have to wonder what Google thinks about the app makers using and profiting from its service, but that's for another time and place.) The interface will look familiar to you, with very similar Keypad, Contacts, Recents, and Favorites menus to select. Talkatone does introduce a Settings menu that includes Network Preferences for adjusting your call quality, though you'll have to pay for an upgrade to make certain changes. To make a call, we had to activate Google Voice or invite our contact to Talkatone. Activating Google Voice involved signing into our Google account through the app, and then clicking on the link that Talkatone sent to our e-mail, which we had to do on our computer. We went to our Contacts list and selected someone to call. The call to our recipient showed up as a mysterious number from Escondido, Calif., which is nowhere near our location. Once our caller picked up, we talked as usual, but couldn't help but notice the noise in the background. We then tried to send a text, but the app went through the same process of having us activate Google Voice, which we had already done. That being said, we were never able to get the app to work to send a text message.
The app does include a banner ad at the bottom of the screen, so you have to be careful not to tap on it. There is an option in the Settings menu to hide all ads, but it requires payment to upgrade. Talkatone works okay for regular phone calls -- that is, if you can get your recipient to pick up from a caller they don't recognize. However, if you're looking free text messaging, we recommend sticking with Apple's iMessage.