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Free Texting with the iPad Wi-Fi and iPad 3G

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Is text messaging a critical part of your mobile lifestyle? You don't have to give up on the iPad just because it doesn't come with native texting capabilities. With a little help from Matthew David and the iTunes App Store, you'll be texting on your new iPad in no time.
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Over 1 million iPads have now been sold, but a key element missing from all of them is the ability to send text messages—a core feature found on every iPhone. Although it's not a native feature, you actually can text message with your iPad. This article shows you how to turn your iPad into a world-class texting machine.

Two different iPads are on the market:

  • iPad with Wi-Fi only
  • iPad with Wi-Fi and 3G

The apps that allow you to send text will work with both iPad versions. The big difference happens when you're receiving messages:

  • The iPad without 3G picks up text messages only when you're in a Wi-Fi hotspot. Step away from the hotspot, and there goes your Internet connection—along with any text messages you should be receiving.
  • The iPad with 3G gives you mobility, because the 3G connection allows you to stay connected no matter where you go. Another great thing about the 3G iPad is that it's optimized for 3G wireless speeds. When the 3G network isn't strong enough, however, this iPad automatically drops down to the slower EDGE connection, which is fine for text messages.

Text Apps Designed for the iPhone: Textfree

Apple made a smart move with the iPad by giving it the ability to run iPhone apps. This has the immediate benefit of allowing you to buy one app and run it on two different devices—your iPhone/iPod Touch and your iPad.

At the time of writing, the iTunes App Store has about 100 apps designed to allow the iPhone to do texting. Of all these apps, Textfree is arguably the most popular. As the name implies, Textfree is a free app. It runs as an iPhone app, sitting in the middle of your screen, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Textfree starts as an iPhone application.

As with all iPhone apps, you can double-size the app on your iPad by clicking the 2x button in the lower-right corner (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 Textfree doubled in size to fill the iPad screen.

Unlike many iPhone apps, the Textfree app looks good at the larger size. You also get some bonus benefits, such as a larger keyboard.

Getting the app running takes only one screen, as shown in Figure 3. The first time you log into Textfree, you need to create an account that your contacts will use to text you.

Figure 3 Textfree setup is quick and easy.

With setup complete, you're free to send and receive text messages (see Figure 4). Textfree uses an email address as your text ID. Your friends can text you at your Textfree account as long as they have MMS text support, which most carriers offer. No cost is involved when you send a text message, but normal texting charges apply to people who send text messages to you from their cell phones (unless they're also using Textfree).

Figure 4 After setting up Textfree, you can text anyone on any mobile carrier that offers MMS texting.

Textfree comes packed with great features. A familiar texting feature copied from the iPhone's default texting is the bubble conversation used to track texts going back and forth (see Figure 5).

Figure 5 Bubble text is used to track conversations.

Textfree comes with a number of settings you can change, including custom themes, notification sounds, and signatures. To change the settings, follow these steps:

  1. With Textfree open, select the ratchet icon along the top of the app to go to the settings screen. On this screen, you can change the text tone, theme, or contact information as desired.
  2. For this example, select the text tone setting. The text tone is the sound that plays when a new text message arrives. Choosing the text tone setting takes you to a list of tones you can select. Textfree includes two free tones and gives you the option to download additional tones. You can preview each tone before you make your selection.
  3. Select the themes setting on the settings screen to change the stylistic look of the main message screen (see Figure 6). Textfree comes with two free themes that you can preview and select, with the option of downloading additional themes.
  4. Select the signature setting on the settings screen if you want to change the default signature that goes out with each of your text messages.

Figure 6 Change the theme to give Textfree a different look.

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