How to Send and Receive Text Messages Without a Phone Plan or SIM Card

Those of you who are following our guide on Google Hangouts already know how to make and receive free Wi-Fi calls without a SIM card. Today, we’ll show you how to take it a step further and use your Google Voice number to send and receive text messages on the Google Voice website, in the Google Voice app, through your SMS messaging app, or through Hangouts – all without a phone plan or SIM card.

On top of that, you do have a couple of other options for sending and receiving text messages without a phone plan or SIM card — there are actually a number of apps that help you out here. Let’s get started, shall we?

Limitations

There are two main limitations when it comes to sending and receiving text messages via Google Voice:

  • No international text messages: if you plan on sending free SMS messages to your friends and relatives in Europe, Asia, or any other place that isn’t the U.S. and Canada, you will run into a major roadblock. At the moment, the international support is limited only to receiving. Sending is possible only to the U.S or Canada.
  • No multimedia messages: Google Voice doesn’t support multimedia messaging. Pictures will simply be ignored, and neither party will receive any notification saying that the delivery was unsuccessful. Depending on how much multimedia messages are important for you, you might be better off using one of the alternatives described at the end of this article.

Setup Google Voice

Those of you who already have a Google Voice number can safely skip this step. Everyone else needs to choose a new Google Voice number from the available Google Voice numbers.

  1. Go to the Google Voice’s official page and log into your account.
  2. Select “I want a new number”.
  3. You have to enter a real phone number that will be used for confirmation. The good news is that you can later disable call and SMS notifications for this number.
  4. Click on “Call Me Now” to verify your registration.
  5. Select the number you would like to use.

Sending Messages

Google Voice is peculiar in how it works. When you send a text message from the default SMS app, it will be sent through your carrier. But when you send a text message from the Google Voice app, it will actually use your data or Wi-Fi connection, instead.

How to Send Texts from a Smartphone

  1. Make sure you have the Google Voice app installed on your smartphone or tablet.
  2. Launch the Google Voice app.
  3. Click on the compose icon, located at the bottom left.
  4. Select the recipient.
  5. Compose your message and send it by clicking on the triangle icon next to it.

How to Send Texts from a Computer

  1. Open Google Voice on your computer.
  2. Click on the ‘Text’ button, located at the top left of the page.
  3. Enter your recipient’s phone number.
  4. Type your message.
  5. And click ‘Send’.

Receiving Messages

Every time someone sends an SMS to your Google Voice number, it’s received by Google and placed in your inbox, which is exactly what we want. But there’s also an option to have Google automatically forward the SMS to your mobile phone number using your carrier.

This is detrimental to our goal of using only data or Wi-Fi connection to receive messages. What you need to do is go to Settings > Phones > [Mobile Phone] then uncheck “Receive text messages on this phone”. All SMS messages will still end up in your Google Voice inbox, but you won’t have to worry about unsuspected fees and charges.

How to Receive Texts in Your Email

The one option that can actually be very useful is to configure Google Voice to deliver all text messages sent to your Google number to the email address associated with your Google Account. This way, you can read what people have to say to you just by logging into your Gmail account.

  1. Open Google Voice.
  2. At the top right of the page, click ‘Settings’.
  3. Go to the “Voicemail & Text” tab.
  4. Check the box next to “Forward text messages to my email.”
  5. Click on “Save Changes.”

You can even reply to a text message from the email you received, and it will be sent as a text message to the original sender.

Alternatives

The biggest advantage of receiving text messages using Google Voice is that absolutely anyone with a phone can contact you. But if you give up this feature, a whole world of alternative messaging apps for Android will open up to you. There are plenty of apps on the Google Play Store that allow you to send and receive both domestic and international SMS messages, multimedia messages, make free phone calls, share your location, and do a lot more than you can do with Google Voice. The downside? Many of these apps require the other person to have the same app as you.

WhatsApp

As we mentioned above, WhatsApp is one of the other applications out that allows you to send domestic and international SMS messages. WhatsApp uses your phone’s Internet connection, whether cellular or through WiFi, to let you message and call friends and family. Switch from SMS to WhatsApp to send and receive messages, calls, photos, videos, documents, voice messages, and so much more.

While WhatsApp can work as an instant messenger a la Facebook Messenger, it does have a feature that allows you to send SMS messages, but extra rates may apply.

Facebook Messenger

Facebook Messenger requires a Facebook account to send messages, but it’s a great way to send and receive messages without a phone plan or SIM card. Sure, it requires others to have a Facebook account as well, but Facebook Messenger is one of the fastest growing platforms that people are preferring over traditional SMS.

A Facebook account is free, and gets people into a messaging service much easier, because there’s little to no cost, aside from the original smartphone. However, there are no recurring costs. One of the cool things about Facebook Messenger is that it can even tie in with people’s phone numbers — you can use it for SMS if you have a phone plan!

Viber Messenger

A little more obscure than Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, Viber Messenger is still a great way to connect with people and send messages with a phone plan or SIM card. Used by over a billion people worldwide, you can actually make free audio and video calls to other Viber users. On top of that, you can make low-cost calls to landlines with Viber Out — landlines and non-Viber users. You can even use Viber Out for low-cost international calling, too!

And, of course, Viber offers free messaging as well. And the best part? It’s 100% all private and secure!

Verdict

As you can see, in addition to the capabilities that Google Voice offers you, there are a number of other apps that allow you to send and receive text messages without a phone plan or SIM card. The only requirement is that you have a wireless connection; and, even if you don’t have Wi-Fi at home, there are plenty of places today that offer free Wi-Fi.

Do you have a personal favorite way to send and receive text messages without a phone plan? Let us know in the comments section below!

15 Replies to “How to Send and Receive Text Messages Without a Phone Plan or SIM Card”

  1. Google Voice Does support MMS pictures- no video but it does support pictures and has for over a year now.

  2. is there any service i can use that i do not have to have a number to begin with because i am trying to gain a number to use and make calls to a land line

  3. so when google asks for your mobile number to send verification code, you use what?
    or should I create another NEW google voice account and use that number!….genius….

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  5. @nate
    false. google does not require a phone service – just wifi access somewhere. I have one main phone and several smartphones (none have service) but since they have wifi, they are basically tiny laptops! you DO NOT need a sim card or phone service to setup google – stop embarrassing your parents.

  6. It’s the 21st century for Christ sake Nate, if you can’t get to a computer to do the initial setup I’m not sure what to tell you.

    This method to receive and send text messages definitely works. I use it on a regular basis, even just today to receive 2 factor verification text.

    You need Google Hangout app and go through all the setting options in the app to make sure SMS is enabled and receive calls is also enabled

  7. Well I was able to send a text message to a contact from my old LG G3 (no SIM, not on my wireless plan). That is all I care about. Sometimes my primary phone is on the other side of the house charging or inside while I’m outside (use the G3 for tunes while mowing). Can use Hangouts on it but most of my contacts don’t use Hangouts.

    Oh but my Google Voice number IS tethered to my GS7E which DOES have a SIM card and is on my wireless plan. So it would seem you still need wireless service to use it.

  8. Can I send multimedia messages without charge? I do have CenturyLink. Thanks for the help.

  9. Please correct this info – Google voice is a poor alternative. Too many services will not send a text message to a google voice phone number. WAY TOO MANY. Nate also has a great point. This article was not tested at all.

  10. The title if your article says “without a ohone plan or sim card” but those are required to set up the google coice account.. so they ARE required!
    Useless!

  11. I just tried to get google voice on my tablet and was advised that it can only be done on a laptop or desktop it’s not for mobile devices

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